Intrathecal Pumps

Intrathecal Pumps (ITPs) are devices used by the Spine & Nerve Centers in the treatment of many chronic pain states. These pumps have shown to be relatively safe and effective in treating chronic back pain, cancer pain, neuropathic pain, and muscle spasticity. ITPs (also known as spinal drug delivery systems) are an automated piece of equipment that are programmed to deliver medication through a small catheter.

The purpose of the pump is to deliver medication directly into the space between the spinal cord and the protective sheath surrounding the spinal cord. Because the ITP delivers pain-relieving medication directly into the patient’s spinal fluid, there is the possibility that smaller doses of medication are required to gain relief.

ITP implants are usually considered when oral pain medications and other methods of pain control have been exhausted or proven ineffective.


With ITP, a surgeon usually performs a trial intrathecal injection or implants a temporary intrathecal pump in the patient to determine if the medication works to begin with, and then decides if a pump is appropriate. If the patient derives at least 50-percent improvement in his or her symptoms, a permanent intrathecal pump is then implanted under the skin. Potential benefits of this therapy include reduction in pain, improved function in daily living, and lower medication doses. As with all therapies, the amount of pain relief will vary from person to person.


As expected with any surgical procedure, there is always a chance of side effects. Surgical complications are possible and can include infection, spinal fluid leak, and headache. Once the system is implanted, device complications may occur. Check with your physician to see if this procedure is right for you.

Patients should consult with their pain physician before receiving the procedure if they:

  • have an allergy to any anesthetic
  • are on blood-thinning medication
  • have an active infection
  • are pregnant

Check with your physician to see if the procedure is right for you.

There may be precautions or limitations on MRI of the brain or body. The patient should consult with the device manufacturer before considering an imaging study.

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