When You Have Both an IV PCA and PCEA
This handout explains the use of two types of patient-controlled medicine - IV Patient Controlled
Analgesia (PCA) and patient controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA). PCA is based on the beliefs
that you (the patient) are the best judge of how much pain you are feeling and that the amount of
pain medicine needed can vary from patient to patient.
Timing: Can be pushed every 30 minutes, depends on the doctor’s order
When you have an epidural, a tiny tube is placed in the space outside the spinal
cord and numbing medicine runs through the tube. You are getting medicine
nonstop when the epidural is on, but you can also push the PCEA button (see
image) that gives you an extra dose of medicine. It works best for sharp pain in or
around your incision. It helps if you push the PCEA button 10 minutes before
you get up or move around in bed for extra pain relief.
The PCEA button has a green flashing light that lets you know when you are able
to get a dose of medicine. If the light is not flashing, it is too soon to get another
This medicine may cause itching or low blood pressure. Please tell your nurse if
the itching is bothering you. There are medicines that can help treat the itching.
Timing: Every 6-10 minutes, depends on the doctor’s order
This allows you to give yourself your own dose of “opioid” pain medicine
through your IV to help control pain. Use this button for pain that is deep in
your incision or pain in places the epidural is not working. It helps if you push it
5 minutes before you get up or move in bed for some extra pain relief.
The PCA button lights up green when you are able to get a dose of medicine. If
the light is not green, it is too soon to get another dose.
The medicine is quick to work but it does not last very long. It can also:
ξ Cause you to be sleepy or nauseous.
ξ Slow down your bowels so you need a stool softener or laxative with it.
ξ Slow your breathing.
For Your Safety
For a short time after you get a dose from the PCA or PCEA, the pump will not give you any
more medicine, even if you press the button again.
It is important that only you, the patient, press the button to get pain medicine. Family members
and friends or visitors should never press the button.
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 ©08/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6167.