What is Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA)?
A PCA is a machine, dispenses your pain relief. It means that you are in control of your own pain relief after your operation.
What are the benefits of using PCA?
You are the one feeling the pain. A PCA allows you to control your pain and have the pain relieving medicine whenever you need it.
What are the risks of using PCA?
You may experience some drowsiness but this is quite normal. You are aiming to feel comfortable and alert. Some people (but not all) may feel sick or experience hallucinations. If this becomes a problem for you, tell the nursing staff and they can give you something to stop it.
Are there any alternatives to PCA?
You and your doctor will discuss the right pain relief for you after your operation. There are many ways of giving you your pain relieving medicine, which include tablets, injections, through a drip in your arm or by a PCA machine.
How does PCA work?
You will be connected to the PCA pump by a small tube in your arm. The handset has a light to indicate when this pain medicine is available. Whenever you feel discomfort or pain, simply press and release the button. As you release the button you will automatically receive a measured dose of medicine. When the light comes on you can press the button again. You will only receive the amount of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.
When will I receive PCA?
You will receive your PCA in the recovery ward when you wake up after your operation. The nurse looking after you will place the button in your hand ready for you to use as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable.
How much medication will I get?
The PCA pump will only deliver small, safe amounts of medicine, prescribed for you by your doctor. After your operation you may need to press the button quite frequently.
In time your pain will decrease and you will use the PCA less often.
How long does PCA take to work?
The medicine starts working within a few minutes. If you still feel discomfort or pain after approximately five minutes, you can press and release the button again.
Can I have too much medication?
No. You will only receive the amount of medication prescribed for you by your doctor. The PCA pump is designed with a “safety lockout system”. This allows only a small safe amount of medicine to be administered. The programme is then locked into the machine and cannot be altered without the doctor’s permission. Everyone needs different amounts of pain relieving medicine after their operation. It is very important that you use enough medicine to help you feel comfortable.
How long will I be on PCA?
You will receive PCA for a relatively short period of time, approximately 2-4 days, after your surgery. Once your pain has reduced, and you are able to start drinking, you will be given tablets.
Will I be able to do physiotherapy?
PCA gives you freedom of movement. You can have pain relief at any time. First press the button and wait a few minutes for the medicine to work. This will make moving and physiotherapy easier.
What if I am still in pain?
The nurse will monitor your condition and assess your pain regularly after your operation. If your pain is not controlled or you have any other problems, tell your nurse, as they will know what to do.
The Acute Pain Team
The Anaesthetist or Pain Nurse Specialist may visit you. This will give you further opportunity to ask any questions which may be worrying you and allow us to check that you are satisfied with the pain relief you are receiving.
Do not hesitate to ask, as we are only too happy to answer your questions. Your nurse will be able to contact us.