Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA)
Patient Controlled Analgesia (called “PCA”) is a way to give your child pain medicine. It is most often used to treat pain after surgery, but may also be used for other types of pain.
How does PCA work?
A PCA pump is a special machine that allows a child to safely give him or herself pain reducing medicine.
- When your child has pain, he or she pushes a button and a small dose of medicine (called a “bolus”) is given through the pump in your child’s IV. You can teach your child to push the button to “make the hurt go away.”
- A timer allows the medicine to only be given after a certain amount of time has passed.
- A PCA pump can be set to give a steady amount of medicine (called a “background,” “basal” or “baseline” infusion), as well as the bolus dose as needed.
Your child’s doctor will decide the amount of the steady dose, based on your child weight and amount of pain. The doses can be increased to make your child more comfortable and decreased as they are recovering. The PCA helps reduce your child’s pain to a reasonable level, but may not get rid of all their pain.
Why is PCA used?
A PCA pump can:
- Provide safe and steady control of pain
- Decrease some of the side effects that pain medicines can cause, such as upset stomach and sleepiness
- Increase your child’s activity to help speed their recovery
- Give your child more control over his/her pain
Who gets a PCA pump?
A PCA pump is used for children with pain from:
- Cancer or side effects from cancer treatments
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Other Chronic Illnesses that are painful
Is PCA safe?
PCA is very safe if the button is pushed only when your child needs pain medication. You should not push the button for your child when he/she is sleeping or resting comfortably.
The pump will only give the amount of medicine your doctor has prescribed, no more often than prescribed. The amount that is prescribed is based on the patient's weight and the patient pushing the button only when he/she is in pain. It is important that you as a parent or caregiver do not push the button when your child is not in pain.
If the button is pushed more often than the timer allows, the bolus dose of medicine will not be given again until enough time has passed.
What can a parent do to help?
- Tell us about your child’s pain. It is important for us to know your child’s pain level while they are getting PCA. The bedside pain scoring tools are used to help us track the amount of pain they are having through the course of a day or night. You can help the nursing staff by encouraging your child to use these tools and talk to the nurse about things that make the pain better or worse.
- While it is always best for the child to use the PCA button, if your child is not able to physically push the button, your doctor or nurse may ask you to do so for him/her. It is best that the child tell you when they feel they need more medicine.
- Do not push the button if he/she is sleeping.
- If you feel your child is not getting enough pain relief with the PCA, or you have any questions about PCA, let your nurse or doctor know.
This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.