More than 25 million Americans have experienced some form of daily pain – over the span of three months – according to a recent National Health Institute (NIH) study. That same study reveals that even more Americans, around 18% of the population, experiences "severe levels" of pain.
Chronic pain is different for everyone. It could be caused by a number of reasons, including genetics, age, disease, or injury. As a result, doctors need to find unique treatments to suit each individual. And while there are many types of alternative and traditional treatments (surgery, yoga, tai chi, etc.) among the most common treatment methods for chronic pain is medication in the form of pills.
Most patients we come across aren't necessarily excited about the prospect of taking daily pills for a number of reasons, including:
- The inconvenience
- The expense
- The risk of addiction
- Social stigma
But, of course, when faced with those issues above, and the potential of reducing their pain, these patients will typically choose to regain some form of quality of life.
It seems like an unfair trade-off. Why should you have to take pills daily to reduce your pain?
Why intrathecal pain therapy may be your best pain treatment option
Here at Southern Pain and Neurological of the Greater New Orleans area, one of the pain treatment options we offer to sufferers of chronic pain is intrathecal pain therapy.
Intrathecal pain therapy involves the use of a small pump, which we surgically place under the skin of the abdomen. This pump delivers medication through a catheter into the area surrounding the spinal cord. Because medication is delivered directly to the spinal cord, a patient's chronic pain symptoms can be controlled with a much smaller dose than would be needed for oral medication.
Our goal with intrathecal pain therapy is to control a patient's symptoms while drastically reducing side effects associated with oral medications.
Understanding the pain pump
An intrathecal pain pump is far more efficient than oral pain medication because it delivers medicine directly to the cerebral spinal fluid. It bypasses the path that oral medication is forced to take throughout the body.
In fact, the potency of medication is about 100-300x more with the pump than when taken orally.
The pump is about the size of a hockey puck, and is implanted beneath the skin of the abdomen or buttock. A catheter is placed in the intrathecal space (the fluid around the spinal cord) and is connected to the pump. A space inside the pump holds medication – usually enough for several months.
The pump slowly releases medication over a period of time. It can be programmed to release varying amounts of medication at different times of the day, depending on a patient's unique needs. The pump stores information about the patient's prescription, making it incredibly easy for doctors to review the information and refill the medication as needed.
Refilling the medication can be performed by a doctor or nurse, by inserting a needle through the patient's skin and filling the reservoir of the pump.
This therapy is 100% reversible if and when a patient decides to have the pump removed.
Are you a candidate for intrathecal pump therapy?
Here at Southern Pain & Neurological, we offer a wide variety of non-invasive treatment solutions for our patients. Intrathecal pain therapy is one such solution, which we recommend to patients who meet the following criteria:
- Have tried conservative therapies with little success
- Would not benefit from additional surgery
- Is dependent on higher or increasing doses of pain medication
- Has no medical conditions that would prevent a successful implantation
- Is not allergic to any drug used in the pump
- Has had a positive response with a trial dose of medication placed in the fluid around the spinal cord
That last bullet point is worth following up on. Before a permanent pump is implanted, we require patients to undergo a trial to determine if the device actually decreases the level of pain experienced.
If the trial is effective, then we may proceed with the procedure. To learn more, contact our team today. We have offices in Marrero, Metairie, and Covington, Louisiana.