Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA)

Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) is a method of pain control that gives patients the power to control their pain. In PCA, a computerized pump called the patient-controlled analgesia pump, which contains a syringe of pain medication as prescribed by a doctor, is connected directly to a patient's intravenous (IV) line.

In some cases, the pump is set to deliver a small, constant flow of pain medication. Additional doses of medication can be self-administered as needed by the having the patient press a button. Other times, a patient can control when he or she receives pain medication and does not receive a constant flow.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Take the Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Chronic Pain?

No doubt about it -- plenty of us are suffering from chronic pain. More than 50 million Americans have some form of this malady, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. But having lots of company doesn’t make it any easier to bear. Chronic pain wears people down, causes fatigue and insomnia, and results in missed work and social isolation. What can you do if chronic pain is interfering with your life? Start by learning what you know -- and maybe don’t know -- about it with this...

Read the Take the Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Chronic Pain? article > >

Who Can Use the PCA Pump?

Patients recovering from surgery often are equipped with PCA pumps. The machines also can be used by people coping with other kinds of pain.

Children who are 4 to 6 years old may be able to use PCA with the help of a parent or nurse. Children who are as young as seven can independently use the PCA pump.

How Often Should the PCA Pump Be Used?

The pump can be used whenever the patient is feeling pain. However, patients should not press the button on the machine if they are feeling too sleepy. The more alert the patient is, the more likely he or she is to participate in a therapy program to aid and possibly shorten recovery. Once the acute pain from surgery is controlled, the patient will be switched to pills for pain relief.

Is it Safe?

PCA pumps have built-in safety features. The total amount of analgesic (pain reliever) that the patient can self administer is within a safe limit.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 03, 2013
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
illustration of nerves in hand
Slideshow
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Man holding handful of pills
Video
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
man with a migraine
Slideshow