Elastomeric Pain Pumps: Pain Relief for Ambulatory Patients

October 1, 2010 | Evaluations & Guidance


Elastomeric infusion pumps are portable pumps that can provide percutaneous, perineural, or epidural infusion treatments for ambulatory patients. They operate on purely mechanical principles without the need for battery-dependent electronics. In the United States, elastomeric pumps are used predominantly for pain management, which is the application we cover in this Evaluation.

In addition to being portable, these pumps are disposable, easy to use, and more cost effective than electronic pumps, running between $100 and $500 per pump. They are also easy to conceal due to their small size, allowing patients to use them in public and maintain some privacy.

Because of their simplicity, elastomeric pumps do not provide the same flow accuracy that electronic pumps do: Whereas an electronic pump would have an accuracy of ±5% or better, elastomeric pumps’ accuracy is typically ±15%. Nor do elastomeric pumps offer alarms or other safety features common to electronic devices. However, because they are generally used for lower-risk (e.g., nonintravenous) infusions, and because the drugs they use pose no risk of respiratory depression, their lower flow accuracy and absence of safety mechanisms are not typically considered a problem. We are aware that some concerns have been expressed about the flow accuracy issue, but our testing did not uncover any problems with accuracy or with performance consistency.

The findings from our testing did not lead us to prefer one device over any other—all the evaluated products are rated three stars. So we recommend that facilities consider which pump has the features they need and, after that, buy on price.

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