Intravenous Patient Controlled Analgesia (IV PCA)
Your doctor has prescribed IV PCA for you. This handout tells you how to use PCA. Your
nurse will go over this with you. Please ask any questions you may have.
What Is Patient Controlled Analgesia?
Analgesia is the medical term for pain relief. With PCA, you are able to give your own dose of
pain medicine. PCA is based on the belief that you are the best judge of how much pain you are
feeling and that each person may need a different amount of medicine to relieve pain.
How IV PCA Works
The PCA system consists of two parts: a pump which is
kept next to the bed, and a control button at the end of a
cable which you keep at your side. Pain medicine from a
syringe placed in the pump goes through tubing into your
IV. Your nurse will set the pump to give the amount of
medicine that your doctor has ordered for you.
To receive a dose of medicine, all you need to do is press
the control button. When you press the button the
medicine goes into your IV. For a short time (often 6-10
minutes) after you receive the dose, the pump will not
give you another dose, even if you press the button again.
This allows time for the medicine to work. If after a brief
wait, you still have pain, press the button again to receive
a second dose. The control button will light up when
another dose is available for you. It is common to have to
press the button several times each hour to keep pain
Why should I have a PCA?
PCA allows you to take the pain medicine when you feel you need it. You get it right away,
because you do not need to call your nurse. Also, since it goes into your IV, it can work quickly.
Finally, the smaller, more frequent doses used with PCA allow you to have a steady amount of
pain relief with little or no drowsiness.
When Should I Use the PCA Pump?
Use the PCA pump:
ξ When your pain is getting worse
ξ A few minutes before you start something that can cause pain (such as turning,
walking, or coughing and deep breathing)
Give yourself enough medicine to be comfortable. The medicine will not make you pain-free,
but it should allow you to rest and move around.
Your nurse will check with you to make certain you are comfortable, and that you are using the
pump as you should. Please tell your doctors and nurses if you feel you cannot control your pain.
The amount of medicine you receive may be changed to give you better pain control. You must
tell your nurses and doctors how your pain medicine is working so they can change the dose, its
timing, or the drug if your pain is not controlled.
You will no longer need PCA when your doctors and nurses feel you are ready to take pills and
that your pain can be controlled with pills.
For Your Safety
It is important that only you, the patient, press the button to receive the pain medicine.
Family members and friends should never press the button for you unless a doctor or nurse
has said that they may. If this is needed, a single person will be given directions on how to
do this safely.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©2/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4273.