Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) Pump

What is a PCA pump?
A patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump is a computerized machine that is attached to a patientís intravenous (I.V.) line. A patient can choose when to take more pain medicine through the use of the PCA pump. The machine contains a syringe of pain medicine as prescribed by a doctor. The syringe is attached to tubing and connected directly to the I.V. line. In some cases, the pump is set to deliver a small, constant flow of pain medicine. When a patient feels pain, he or she can press the button on the pump for additional pain medicine. The machines have built-in safety features. The total amount of analgesic (pain reliever) that the patient can self-administer is within a safe limit.

How often should the PCA pump be used?
The pump can be used whenever the patient is feeling pain. 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.

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 four to six years old might 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.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit or This document was last reviewed on: 12/28/2015