What to expect when you’re expecting a pain pump implant

pump2For those of you who have found me while searching for information about pain pump implants, here are the details. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, or even most of them, but this was my experience. I had a difficult time finding people who could tell me what to expect, especially in regards to working fulltime and caring for my kiddos post op.

I have a Medtronic SynchroMed II Drug Pump implanted in my right butt-cheek to help me control my chronic digestive pain. It was implanted on April 17, 2013.

  •  The surgery itself was rather uneventful, they knocked me out and when I woke up the pump was already working. They gave me an extra bump of meds twice that day, which helped with the incision pain. I was kept over night for observation and pain control (via IV). I had two incisions: one on my lower spine where they implanted the catheter, and one on my right butt-cheek, where they implanted the pump.
  • While in the hospital I took advantage of endless ice packs, they REALLY help. I was up and moving, although in slowly, right away.
  • Bring snacks. My surgery was 4 hours behind schedule and by the time I was settled into my room, they didn’t have any food service to offer me. Finally convinced a nurse to make me toast when I almost passed-out in the loo.
  • Beware of spinal headaches. I really wish I had asked my Doc about the clinic’s treatment plan for these monster headaches, which are very common after spinal procedures. My headache hit on the way home from the hospital and despite lying in bed for 2 days trying to get fluids and caffeine in, it wouldn’t relent. Unfortunately for me, my clinic didn’t tell me that they wouldn’t do a blood patch (almost instant cure) on the weekend, I was left puking and delirious for the worst 4 days in recent history. Plan for this ahead, so you will know what to do.
  • Driving: Between the spinal headache & incision pain, I couldn’t drive for a little over a week. The second week has been painful, the bumps in the road are brutal, but doable with extra cushion. If I had more time to recover, I would have waited to drive for another week or so.
  • Childcare: I never plan for enough of this, always assuming I can get back to normal too quickly. Again, because of the headache & pain, I needed someone to care for my young kids completely for the first week, and assistance for the second. It is hard to pick-up my 20 month old, it puts pressure on the incisions, and healing is exhausting.
  • Work: I planned to return to work a week after surgery. I postponed it an extra day, and then went back for 2 half-days, before returning in full. When I do this again, I will take 2 weeks off. I have a desk job, and sitting for hours on end is really difficult, even with pillows and ice packs.
  • Clothes: My Doc game me a belly wrap that I am to wear over the incisions for a month, it helps hold everything in place while it is healing. This makes it hard to wear my normal pants, so I have  managed with yoga pants and leggings.
  • Progress: I am hopeful. I had my second post-op check-up yesterday and they gave me a bump in my pump medication  (with a remote of sorts). It already seems to be taking the edge off a bit, allowing me to take fewer oral medications.

I hope this is helpful, and encourage anyone who has questions to comment here. I am happy to share whatever I can.


14 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I don’t know much about your procedure but I have a spinal cord stimulator and wish they had gave me the choice of what you have too. Can you describe what it does for you exactly?
    Thanks, Donna


    • Donna, happy to share! I trial-ed the stimulator, but it didn’t work for me. This implant delivers a pain med to my spine directly. It allows me to take fewer oral medications (saving my digestive system), I will require less medication overall with better results, and I will have fewer side-effects from the daily meds — hopefully!


  2. Posted by Melissa on May 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I had a pain pump put in on March the 8, 2013 and it was removed on April 12th due to infection,I LOVED my pump while it was in it worked sooooo well, I miss it very much, my doctor will not put one back now if ever, I also had the spinal headache but was aware of this side effect it went away after a few days of laying flat, did not need a blood patch thank goodness…I hope you continue to be happy with your pump!!!


  3. I am so sorry to hear that Melissa, I know that can be a problem. Will they let you try it again after the infection is over?


  4. […] What to expect when you’re expecting a pain pump implant […]


  5. Posted by Laura on September 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I just got my pain pump in my right upper butt area, on September 17, but they filled it with saline. They wait until it is completely healed before putting meds in, so I get that October 21. In the meantime I’m making due with heavier doses of pain meds, as mine has been extremely painful and my pump incision got infected, been on antibiotics for 5 days. I have major hip pain and wonder if this is from the implant or my fibromyalgia flaring up. Seems like I wouldn’t still be in this much pain from the surgery. I, too, love my ice packs, and have to sit on a pillow. It feels like there’s a tuna can in my hip/butt area.


    • Hi Laura,
      I’ms sorry to hear that you have to wait for actual pain mends in the pump – every Doc does it differently. The recovery is painful and I think that sort of trauma sets off our already stressed bodies. Hope you are feeling better soon. I wore my wrap and carried a pillow for about 8 weeks. Keep me posted!


  6. Posted by brandy flynt on November 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I just had the pump implanted and my headache started Thursday night. I cannot reach anyone..wbich I think is crazy..but is holiday weekend. should I be scared? my dr. does not open till tue the day of my appointment..please please help me if u can..


    • I am so sorry to hear about the spinal headache, they are hell on earth. I’m not a Doctor but here are the things I did while waiting for my blood patch – lay flat constantly, get some iced coffee, tea or soda with caffeine and drink it with a straw while lying down (caffeine can help). I would call the hospital where you had the surgery to see if they can do the patch now – Tuesday is so far away 😦 if they can’t they might be able to contact your Doctor more directly right now. Sometimes hospitals can give you a caffeine IV to reduce the pain. I will cross all of my fingers that you get help ASAP. Keep me posted.


  7. Posted by cheesecakedeath on July 17, 2014 at 2:01 am

    In addition to back pain I also have ovarian cysts so I usually have a tens unit in the back and ice packs in the front. Unfortunately I am on my feet at my job so I have to tuck the ice pack(s) i in my panties and take them with me. I feel like I am wearing a diaper lol I don’t have a pillow but have stolen the most comfortable padded chair in the office. 🙂


    • Some how I missed your comment way back in 2014. I hope you are doing OK. I can absolutely relate to the icepacks in my pants 😉 Are you still using the pump?


  8. Posted by Kristen McConnell on September 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Hello, I am glad to find your blog. I will be getting my pain pump in a few weeks. My question has to do with positioning of the device. I am thin (90lbs), all I can see on Google images is people who had the pack placed in their abdomen. For me, it would be too much. So if I ask for it to go on my upper bum. I’m curious as to if it is as noticeable? How does your clothing fit? Do you need modifications, or just stick to dresses? Also another heavy thought is comfort. Of course it’s noticeable (I’ve had a shunt in my lower back) but how is it for you to bend over, lay/sit or turning?
    Hope to hear from others, I go in October 27th.


    • Hello and thanks for the comment! I’ve been very happy with my upper bum placement. It doesn’t move much or get bumped very often. I carry my weight in my hips & bum, so maybe a little different than you. I can barely see it’s shape and it does not show through clothing. The first few weeks I sat with a pillow, especially in the car, and wore yoga pants. Loose skirts are good too. Now everything is fine , including jeans.

      It doesn’t bother me much sitting, a really soft chair or couch sometimes requires me to sit a little to the left to give it some space. Running feels weird because the weight of it bounces. I sleep fine on either side, flat back hurts after a little while.

      Anything else I can answer for you? There is a Yahoo group called Pumpsters that I have found endlessly helpful.

      Best of luck!


  9. […] What to expect when you’re expecting a pain pump implant […]


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