Definition of PCA
PCA: Commonly used abbreviation for patient-controlled analgesia. Analgesia simply means relief of pain. PCA is a method by which the patient controls the amount of pain medicine (analgesia) they receive. There are a number of different PCA systems.
In the classic PCA system, the patient receives a preset dose of morphine by pressing a button on a computerized pump that is connected to an IV catheter. With PCA the patient may receive a small continuous flow of morphine and add more morphine as needed to provide a more constant level of comfort. Studies have shown that patients using PCA often use less morphine than do patients who are not on PCA.
In a very different type of PCA system, the pain reliever fentanyl (Duragesic) is delivered transdermally (through the skin), eliminating the need for an IV and for programming a pump.
Last Editorial Review: 10/9/2012
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