Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) Pumps: Care Instructions

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A patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump contains your pain medicine. Usually that medicine is morphine, but other pain medicines are sometimes used. Medicine flows from the pump through a tube with a needle on the end (called an I.V.) into your body. You press a button when you feel pain, and the pump gives you a dose of medicine. Your doctor sets the dose. You cannot give yourself too much medicine because the pump will be set to prevent that.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • You should be the only one who presses the button to give yourself more pain medicine. Don't allow family members and friends to do this for you. If you're too sleepy to press the button yourself, you don't need more medicine in your body.
  • To avoid infection, try not to touch the area around the needle (called the I.V. site). Try to keep the area dry.
  • Some prescription pain medicines can cause constipation, which may become severe. Talk to your doctor before you use any type of laxative to prevent or treat constipation.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • Your I.V. site starts bleeding and you can't get it to stop.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The pump is not working to control your pain.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the I.V. site.
    • Pus draining from the I.V. site.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.
  • The I.V. site becomes very pale or painful.
  • The I.V. site is oozing small amounts of blood.
  • The medicine doesn't seem to be going into your vein.
  • You feel much sleepier than you think you should.
  • You're having side effects, such as vomiting or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.