According to reports made to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2005 and 2009, more than 56,000 adverse events and 700 patient deaths were linked to infusion pumps. One out of 378 post-surgical patients are harmed or die from errors related to the infusion pumps that help relieve pain after surgical procedures, such as knee or abdominal surgery.
Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pumps were developed to address the problem of undermedication. They are used to permit the patient to self-administer small doses of narcotics (usually Morphine, Dilaudid, Demerol, or Fentanyl) into the blood or spinal fluid at frequent intervals. PCA pumps are commonly used after surgery to provide a more effective method of pain control than periodic injections of narcotics. This method of pain control has been found to result in less pain and earlier discharge from the hospital. PCA pumps can be effectively used by children as young as six years old. A continuous infusion (called a basal rate) of 1-2 mg/hour permits the patient to receive a continuous infusion of pain medication. This mode of delivery is now used only for patients who have had prior opioid use or are not “opioid naïve”. The risk of respiratory depression is too great in patients who have not built up a tolerance to opioids. Typically the patient receives an intravenous “loading” dose to quickly raise the blood level of the pain medication.