Peripheral Nerve Catheter and Pump (PNC) for Pain - Outpatient :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Helping Hand Logo


Peripheral Nerve Catheter and Pump for Pain - Outpatient

The doctor has placed a flexible tube (catheter) under your child’s skin to help control his or her pain. The tube is called a peripheral (pa RIF e rel) nerve catheter (Picture 1). One end of the tube is under the skin around the nerves. The other end is attached to a pump. The catheter is placed either while your child is asleep in the operating room or under sedation, before he or she goes into the operating room.
The pump is filled with numbing medicine. The medicine goes through the tube and numbs the nerves that send pain signals from the area of surgery to the brain. This blocks the feeling of pain.
The medicine from the pump may be enough to manage the pain. Or, your child can also take the pain medicine his doctor ordered for him if needed.

Picture 1 Peripheral nerve catheter.

Common Side Effects

The medicine may make the arm or leg feel weak, heavy or tingly and numb. The feeling will stop after the numbing medicine wears off. Your child may not be able to move the area for one or two days after surgery.
Be sure to protect the arm or leg from injury during this time. Have your child test using his arm or leg before using it or putting weight on it. When the numbness wears off, there may be more pain.

Skin Care

  • When the tube is placed in the skin, a clear bandage is placed on it to keep it clean. The bandage is to stay on as long as the tube is in place.
  • ? The bandage helps keep the tube in place. If the tube comes out, it cannot be put back in.
  • Keep the bandage clean and dry. While the tube is in, your child should take a sponge bath only. Gently pat the clear dressing dry if it gets wet.
  • Your child may lie on the arm or leg in which the catheter is placed. However, avoid any pulling on the catheter so it does not come out.

The Pump

  • The catheter is connected by tubing to a pump. The pump gives your child a constant infusion (supply) of pain medicine.
  • The medicine is given at the same rate all the time. The rate is decided by the doctor. Do not change the pump in any way that could affect the delivery of medicine.
  • The doctor may have set an extra amount of medicine (bolus) that can be delivered if more pain relief is needed.
  • The doctor will set the amount of medicine and time allowed between extra doses. Your child cannot overdose himself.
  • Your child will be given a small pouch to wear to hold the pump.
  • The pump will deliver medicine for up to 7 days.
  • When the medicine bag is empty, remove the tube and throw away the pump and tube.

Care of the Pump

  • Keep the pump dry.
  • Do not change the pump in any way
  • Remove the tube when the pain service has instructed you to do so. The tube may stay in up to 7 days after surgery.

Removal of the Tube

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds. Rinse with water and towel dry.
  2. Remove the clear bandage by peeling back one edge. Loosen it around the site where the tube goes into the skin.
  3. Hold the tube close to the skin and gently pull. The tube should come out easily. The end of the tube has a black tip so you know it is out all the way. Do not cut the tube for any reason.
  4. Place a Band-Aid® or other covering over the site where the tube was removed.
  5. Throw the tube, pump and dressing into a trash bag.
  6. Wash your hands again with warm water and soap. Rinse and towel dry.
  7. Remove the Band-Aid® the next day and look at the area for any redness, swelling or drainage.

When to Call the Doctor

It is common for a small amount of fluid to leak from the tube site. Call the doctor if:
  • The tube comes out of the skin
  • The fluid leaking from the site is cloudy or has color
  • The bandage is so wet it starts to come off
  • There is redness, pain, or warmth at the site where the tube goes into the skin
  • Your child has:
    • Numbness around the lips
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Metal taste in the mouth
    • Blurred vision or dizziness
    • Fever higher than 102 degrees F by mouth
If you have questions about the tube or pump, please call 614-690-1715. After you hear the tone, enter your phone number by pressing the number keys. The pain nurse or doctor will call you back at that number.
HH-II-190 10/11 Revised 9/15 Copyright 2011, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000