Discussions that mention vicodin

Pain Management board

Ashley: Sorry you have suffered for so long. Here are answers to your questions.

1. Pump is implanted just under the skin (within about half an inch of the surface), and centered about two inches to the right of my belly button. I believe most intrathecal pumps are put in that location to facilitate refills. Also, a key component of the system is the catheter (or thin tube) that is placed under the skin and wraps around to the intrathecal space in your spine (this is where the analgesic is infused).

2. For me, pump was implanted using a spinal block. Two incisions are made (a five-inch incision on your stomach, and a one or two-inch incision on your back). The procedure was done in an outpatient-type surgery center in Santa Monica, CA. Procedure was done in the morning, I spent the night, and went home the next day. Fine-tuning of the amount of analgesic infused was done in the doctor's office, and is accomplished electronically (via commands from a hand-held device held close to the pump). I was walking around the day after the implantation, albeit slowly.

3. Pump works by infusing an analgesic directly into your spinal canal. (NOTE: I believe I was told all pain sensations, anywhere in your body, originate in the nerves of the spine before signals are sent to the brain). Sorry I can't give you a more scientific or medical explanation, but if you go to Medtronic's website, they may have a more precise explanation). The doctor refills the pump at an interval depending on how much analgesic is infused. For me, it started at once every 30 days, and toward the end, just prior to turning off the pump, I was refilled once every 90 to 120 days. The refill procedure is usually quick, and takes a routine office visit.

4. Pump has never interfered with my daily life, except for one small inconvenience. I travel a lot via airplanes, and since 9/11, I always get extra attention because the pump activates their alarms. It's not a big deal. I have a personalized card from Medtronic that explains what's inside me, but TSA still inspects every other part of my body with their metal-detecting wand. The pump and catheter can be felt by anyone (it's the size of a hockey puck), but it's completely inside your body.

5. The type of analgesic inside the pump varies. For me, it was pure, liquified morphine. I remember my doctor telling me he was experimenting with other analgesics (NOTE: in 1998, these pumps were still a novelty, and I may have, unwittingly, been a part of Medtronic's research program. Why do I think this? The Medtronic Representative was inside the room when my pump was surgically emplaced). When morphine enters your body via the spinal canal, it doesn't go directly to your bloodstream, so I never felt the side-effects of an opiate. What I felt was IMMEDIATE and EXTREMELY effective pain reduction.

6. If you look close enough, you can see a slight bulge where the pump is implanted. However, it is easily hidden by clothing. This is more of a concern to a woman, especially if you are on the thin side.

7. From the pump, I received 90 to 100% pain reduction, far more than taking any oral analgesic. Prior to the pump, I was taking 80 mg of Oxycontin three times a day, and I had additional Vicodin ES on hand. Today, that may not seem to be a lot of oral pain medication, but remember, in 1997-1998, Pain Management was still in it's infancy, and my neurosurgeon hesitated to continue giving me oral opiates for the long term. Hence, that's why he referrred me to the PM doctor.

8. Pain level w/o pump and oral med: 6 (and intractable).
Pain level with pump: 1 to 2 (at times, no pain whatsoever)

Ashley, we have one more thing in common. I grew up in Oxnard, and was living there when the pump was implanted.

Prior to the pump, I was bedridden, declared disabled by the SSA, and miserable. Since the pump, I was able to rehabilitate myself by going to the gym, and I have held jobs in Japan, Thailand, Afghanistan, Washington, DC, and Korea.

Today, I still have pain, but most of the time, it's manageable.

Would I do it again, and do I recommend it? ABSOLUTELY! It changed my life!