UW Pain Clinic uses pain pumps to curb pain, addiction

Pain pumps deliver low dose of targeted treatment

For some patients dealing with chronic pain, doctors at the UW Health Pain Clinic have a life changing option: a pain pump.

The pain pump is a small device implanted in under the skin near the abdomen of the patient. A catheter carries a controlled amount of pain medication directly to the area affected. Because the treatment is targeted to the painful area, less pain medication is needed; it is more effective and reduces the risk of addiction to pain pills.

“With small doses in the pump, you get better efficacy, and fewer side effects,” says Dr. Alaa Abd-Elsayed, medical director of the UW Pain Clinic.

To deal with a growing number of patients with chronic pain, the UW Pain Clinic has dramatically grown in the last three years. The case load has increased by more than 300 percent and the pain clinic has expanded into a new facility three times larger than the original size.

Jeff Showers went to the UW Pain Clinic a year and a half ago when pain pills were not adequately controlling chronic back pain. Showers injured his back 15 years ago.

“So they just ended up sticking me on pain pills to live,” says Showers. “It really wasn’t living. It was greeting by.”

Before coming to the UW Pain Clinic a year and a half ago, Showers was taking 240 milligrams of morphine a day in the form of pills. When doctors tried to lower the dose, he realized he was addicted to the pain pills.

Once the pain pump was implanted, his life changed.

“It was like 20 minutes later and I had no pain. It was completely gone,” says Showers.

He is now able to work pain free at his job with Research Products. He is able to do things again that he wasn’t capable of before getting the pain pump.

“It has been such a relief. I went from originally taking 240 milligrams of morphine a day down to, now the pain pump injects .699 milligrams a day into my spine,” says Showers.

“It has changed my life dramatically.”

Patients do have to return to their doctor every six months to have the pain medication in the pump changed. That procedure can be done in a doctor’s office and takes a short period of time to complete.

“Usually it is a life changer because patients just don’t need their pills. They don’t take oral medications any more. The pump is just infusing the medication and the patients live happy,” says Dr. Abd-Elsayed.