Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) FAQs

Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) means that you will have some control of your pain medicine. Before PCA, when you needed medicine for pain, the nurse was called to bring it. With PCA, you press a button and the pain medicine is given through a small tube in a vein in your arm. It is carefully measured and timed by a pump so that the exact amount specified by your doctor is given. The pump has safeguards that will not give you more medicine than is percribed and is very safe as long as only the patient pushes the button. Since the pain medicine is given through the IV line it is not necessary to have a "shot" or be stuck with a needle each time pain medicine is given.

How does PCA work?

The pain medicine will be in a pump that is connected to the IV tube in your arm. When you need pain medicine, you can press a button and the pump will give you the dose that has been ordered by your doctor. Since the medicine is given into your IV tube, it usually takes only a few minutes for the medicine to give you relief. You should press the button whenever you need pain relief.

Can I take too much medicine if I press the button too often?

The PCA pump will safely give you pain medicine just as your doctor has ordered it. Even if you press the button more often, the pump will not give you more medicine than your doctor has ordered.

My family or a friend may be with me. Can they press the button for me?

No, you are the only person who should press the button for more pain medicine. Your family and friends want to help you to stay comfortable but it is not safe for another person to press the button for you.

Can I get out of bed and walk when the PCA pump is connected to my IV?

Yes, the PCA pump and the IV fluid bag can be hung on a "rolling pole" so you can move about. Your doctor will say when you can get out of bed after your surgery and your nurse will help you.

What if I don't get pain relief when I press the button?

It may not be possible to relieve all of your pain, but you should be able to cough, take deep breaths, rest, and move about. Tell your doctor or nurse if you do not think that your pain medicine is working well enough.

What if I get sick at my stomach or itch from the pain medicine?

You may not have these side effects of pain medicine. If you do the doctor can give you another medicine that will control the sick feeling or itching. Tell you nurse right away about this as it is easier to treat when it is mild.

When will the PCA pump be stopped?

Usually the PCA pump is stopped when you are able to drink liquids, are not sick at your stomach, and are able to take pain pills.

Will I get enough pain relief from the pain pills?

Most people get very good relief from pain pills. You do need to take the pills when you first begin to hurt as it takes about 30 minutes for the pills to work. Tell your nurse if you do not get relief as the dose may need to be changed of another drug used.

I have never taken pain medicine. Will I get "hooked" on the medicine?

There is no reason to worry about getting "hooked" on medicine taken for pain after surgery unless you already have a problem with addiction.