top of page

Intrathecal Infusion Pump (Pain Pump)

What is an Intrathecal Infusion Pump?

The intrathecal programmable pump is an implanted medical device which is used to deliver medication directly into the spinal fluid. The system consists of an infusion pump, a spinal catheter, and an external programmer.

The pump has two sealed chambers. One contains an electronic module and battery; the other contains a peristaltic pump and drug reservoir.

To fill the pump, medication is injected through the reservoir fill port, and into the expandable reservoir. The medication through a bacterial-retentive filter and into the pump chamber. From the pump chamber, the medication is pumped out of the device and into the catheter. A microprocessor controls the rate at which the pump delivers medication.

Why might I need an Intrathecal Infusion Pump?

An intrathecal pain pump implant may be used if you have chronic pain or cancer pain from an injury or a disease. It can help ease pain when other types of pain care have not worked or have caused severe side effects. It may be used after you have tried pain medicine by pill, liquid, or injection. Or it may be used if surgery to treat the source of pain is not an option.

What happens during the procedure?

Intrathecal Infusion Pump require two procedures to test and implant the device: the trial and the implantation.

Intrathecal Infusion Pump Trial

Before having an intrathecal pain pump implanted, this type of pain care is tested to make sure it will work for you. You may have an injection of pain medicine. Or you may have a short-term (temporary) test of an intrathecal pain pump.


During this procedure:

  • You lie face-down on a medical table. An area in your back over your spine is numbed. You may be given medicine to relax you or make you sleep.

  • A healthcare provider makes a small cut (incision) in your skin over part of your spine. He or she puts a stiff tube through the skin. It goes into the space around the spinal cord.

  • The provider then puts a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through the first tube and moves it farther into the intrathecal space. Pain medicine is sent through this tube for a few days to see if it helps your pain.

Intrathecal Infusion Pump Placement

If the pain relief trial works for you, a pump will be implanted. For this procedure:


  • You lie face-down on a medical table. You are given medicine to relax you or make you sleep through the procedure.

  • The healthcare provider removes the first catheter you had. He or she puts a new catheter under your skin.

  • The provider then puts a pump about 1 inch under your skin on one side of your lower belly (abdomen). The pump is a disk about 1 inch thick and 3 inches wide. It contains medicine and has a battery that lasts for 5 to 7 years. The catheter is connected to the pump.

  • The provider connects the pump to a small device outside your body. The provider uses this device to control the pump.


The pump may be programmed by the healthcare provider. Or it may be set to a certain amount. The type of medicine used in the pump will depend on your type of pain and other factors. The pump will need to be refilled with medicine when needed. This may happen every 1 to 3 months.

What happens after the procedure?

You will wake up in the recovery area. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration will be monitored, and your pain will be addressed. Most patients are discharged home the same day or the following morning. The pulse generator will be programmed before you leave. You will be given written instructions to follow when you go home.

bottom of page