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Patient Controlled Analgesia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is patient-controlled analgesia (PCA)?

PCA is a way for you to give yourself pain medicine when you need it. Your healthcare provider will program the machine to give a certain amount of medicine. You will press a button to give a dose. The machine will only give the set amount each time you press the button. The machine also has a lockout period that prevents you from getting a dose too soon or too often.

What should I tell my healthcare provider before I use PCA?

Any of the following may increase your risk for breathing problems while you are using PCA. Talk to your healthcare provider about these and any other health conditions you have:

How does PCA work?

The PCA is a pump attached to a syringe filled with pain medicine. Healthcare providers will insert an IV into your vein. The PCA pump and syringe will be connected to your IV. You may get the medicine in any of the following ways:

Patient Controlled Analgesia Pump

What do I need to know about PCA safety?

What are the benefits of PCA?

PCA will allow you to have control over how and when your pain is treated. You do not have to wait for healthcare providers to give you medicine. 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 heal faster. PCA allows you to get pain medicine without having repeated injections.

What are the risks of PCA?

You may get too much medicine if the machine is not set up correctly or the wrong dose is programmed. Pain medicine may make you breathe less deeply or stop breathing. Healthcare providers will watch you closely to help prevent or treat these problems.

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 healthcare providers 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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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.