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Patient Controlled Analgesia For Adults


What is patient controlled analgesia?

Patient controlled analgesia (PCA) is a way for you to give yourself pain medicine when you feel you need it. The PCA is a machine that is programmed to give you pain medicine slowly through an IV. The PCA pump will not let you get too much medicine. PCA also allows you to get pain medicine without having repeated injections.

When is PCA used to control pain?

PCA is used to treat short-term pain from surgery or an accident. PCA can also help manage long-term pain from conditions such as cancer. Your caregiver may give you a PCA to use at home to help control your pain.

How does PCA work?

The PCA is a small, lightweight, battery-operated pump attached to a syringe filled with pain medicine. Caregivers will insert an IV into your vein. The PCA pump and syringe will be connected to your IV. There are different ways to get the medicine.

  • You may have a PCA pump that will run only when you need pain relief. When you feel pain, you can push the button attached to the PCA pump. A small dose of pain medicine will be given through your IV.
  • You may receive a small amount of pain medicine running through your IV all the time. You may have a button so you can get more medicine when you need it.

How safe is a PCA?

The PCA pump is built to make sure you do not get too much pain medicine. The machine has a lockout period that prevents you from getting a dose of medicine too soon. You may push the button many times, but the pump will only give you a set amount of medicine. PCA will be used only for the amount of time necessary to control your pain.

Who should press the button?

You should press the PCA button when you feel you need medicine to help control your pain. If you think that someone else should press the button for you, talk to your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are still uncomfortable a few minutes after pushing the button. Caregivers can usually tell by your heartbeat and breathing if you need more medicine. Caregivers can also tell if you get too much pain medicine.

Will pain medicine slow my recovery?

Pain medicine is needed and important after an injury or surgery, or during some illnesses. PCA may allow you to rest comfortably. You may not need as much medicine from a PCA as when you receive injections for pain. A PCA may better control your pain and keep you alert and awake. You may be able to start moving around sooner. This may help prevent blood clots from forming, and help you get better faster.

What are the risks of PCA?

The pain medicine given in the PCA may cause nausea, itchy skin, or trouble urinating. Caregivers will watch you closely to help prevent and treat these problems.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are very sleepy most of the time.
  • You have frequent vomiting.
  • Your pain is not at a manageable level.
  • Your skin where the IV is placed is painful, warm, red, swollen or bleeding.
  • You see blood in the tube going to the pump.
  • Your pump has no more medicine in it.
  • Your pump alarm goes off.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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