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How do you know if a pain pump is operating correctly?

Pain pumps are usually on recommended for patients who are suffering from intractable pain that hasn’t responded to other forms of control.

Pain pumps, or intrathecal implants, can be used for chronic conditions, including those that are terminal. Some of the conditions that pain pumps are used to treat include pain caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Tumor pain
  • Nerve pain that causes a chronic burning sensation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis

Ideally, pain pumps deliver small doses of morphine or another narcotic at regular intervals to keep pain at bay.

Unfortunately, pain pumps don’t always function the way that they’re designed. They sometimes deliver too much medication, sometimes too little — or even none at all!

If you or someone you love has a pain pump, there are some important things you should watch for.

Signs of an overdosed:

If someone is receiving too much of a narcotic, he or she may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Excitability or a sense of anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness

In some cases, the pain pump may be doing its job correctly, but other medications — including sleep aids — can cause deadly interactions. In other cases, the pump may be malfunctioning and putting too much of the narcotic into the patient’s system all at once.

Anyone observing a patient with a pain pump who exhibits these symptoms should call 911 for assistance immediately.

Signs of an underdose:

The symptoms of an underdose can come on slowly. Far more than just a return of a patient’s pain, the sudden withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Muscle or nerve twitches
  • Itching
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seating
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps

It’s important to understand that an underdose can be as dangerous as an overdose — especially if the patient’s pump is blocked or failing. A patient who has been on a pain pump for any length of time will have a biological dependency on the narcotics. It’s dangerous to reduce them abruptly.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that a pain pump isn’t working properly.

A faulty or defective pain pump can be lethal. Be particularly cautious when a pump is new, refilled, adjusted, replaced or repaired. If you or someone you love suffers an injury due to a defective pain pump, it’s wise to discuss your legal options with an attorney.


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