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Patient Controlled Analgesia or PCA's

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PCA, or “Patient Controlled Analgesia” involves the administration of pain medication by a machine in which a patient, usually following surgery, controls the amount of medication administered by pressing a button. The purpose of PCA is improved pain control. The patient receives immediate delivery of pain medication without the need for a nurse to administer it. The medications most commonly used in PCA pumps are synthetic, opium-like pain-relievers (opioids), usually morphine and meperidine (Demerol).

PCA uses a computerized pump, which is controlled by the patient through a hand-held button that is connected to the machine. The pump usually delivers medications in small regular doses, and it can be programmed to issue a large initial dose and then a steady, even flow. The PCA pump can deliver medicine into a vein (intravenously, the most common method), under the skin (subcutaneously), or between the dura mater and the skull (epidurally).

Using a PCA pump requires that the patient understand how the system works and has the physical strength to press the button. Therefore, PCA should not be offered to patients who are confused, unresponsive, or paralyzed. Patients with neurologic disease or head injuries in whom narcotics would mask neurologic changes are not eligible for PCA. Patients with poor kidney or lung function are usually not good candidates for PCA, unless they are monitored very closely.

When the patient feels the need for medication, the patient presses a button similar to a nurse call button. The nurse or doctor sets the pump to deliver a specified dose, determined by the physician, on demand with a lockout time. The pump should generate a record that the nurses can access.

If the physician prescribing PCA is unfamiliar with the proper calculations for dosages of drugs or the machine malfunctions, the patient can overdose on medication and suffer permanent debilitating injury or even death. We have handled a number of these cases. We have found that injuries from PCA tend to result from lack of physician experience or skill and nursing errors. Often we have found that these people become ill during the night when nurses often do not look closely at their patients. Please see our case examples.

Contact a Pennsylvania Med Mal Attorney

If you or a loved one had adverse affects after the prescription of a PCA, you may be the victim of medical malpractice. At Biancheria & Maliver, our lawyers' experience with the investigation and proof of both liability and damages in cases of medication errors can help maximize your recovery in a medical malpractice lawsuit. For a free assessment and evaluation of your claim, contact the Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys at Biancheria & Maliver. Your case will always be personally reviewed by Deborah Maliver who is both an attorney and a board certified physician.