Back Pain Information for Kids

Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA)

Imagine - just a simple push of a button and pain can be controlled! That is how Patient-Controlled Analgesia (an-al-geez-ya) or PCA works. Analgesia means "without pain." PCA is a wonderful invention designed to help people of all ages control pain after surgery.

Before Surgery
Before the operation, the doctor, nurse, and/or anesthesiologist (an-is-these-eee-all-o-gist) discuss PCA with the patients and their parents. An anesthesiologist is a special doctor who helps the patient stay asleep during the surgery. All questions are answered.

How Does It Work?
The PCA unit is shaped like a box mounted on a tall metal stand. It is equipped with a pump attached to an intravenous line, or IV. An IV is a flexible clear plastic tube connected to a blood vessel in the hand or arm. Medicine flows through the tubing into the patient. It does not hurt.

Patients are given a little push button device to hold in their hands. A quick push of the button is all that is needed to help relieve pain. PCA helps patients control their own pain without waiting for a nurse or needing shots. Pain relief around the clock! Any child old enough to play video games can easily learn to use the PCA.

Not Too Much Medicine!
First, the doctor orders the type of drug best for the patient. There are different kinds. The dose, or amount to be given, is based on how much the child weighs. Children weigh less than adults and receive a smaller dose.

The doctor and nurses check everyday to make sure the patient is comfortable. If the dose is not enough to control the pain, the doctor changes the order.

PCA won't let the patient take more medicine than allowed. The PCA unit is programmed to deliver the exact amount the doctor ordered. Each time the patient pushes the button, the PCA unit adds up the amount of medicine used. There is no reason to worry about getting too much - the unit automatically locks up before too much medicine is delivered.

Other Benefits
Just think, pain control without shots! Plus, smaller, incremental doses of medicine mean less sleepiness and weakness. Overall, the patient uses less pain medicine than when shots are given to control pain. It helps the patient to get up, walk, and move around sooner. This increases circulation and can speed healing.

After surgery, PCA may be used for a few days. The number of days depends on the patient's needs. Everyone has different needs. When the PCA is no longer needed, the doctor orders different pain medication. This medicine may come in pill or liquid form.
Updated on: 12/10/09