Syringe drivers for giving pain control
A number of strong painkillers can be given by a syringe driver – these include morphine, oxycodone, diamorphine and alfentanil.
A syringe driver is a small portable pump that can be used to give you a continuous dose of your painkiller and other medicines. It’s often used if you’re vomiting or unable to swallow. Your doctor or nurse will let you know if you need a syringe driver.
A syringe driver is easy to set up. A syringe containing the painkiller is put into the driver and attached to a fine needle or cannula (fine, plastic tube) that is placed just under the skin (subcutaneously). A small dose of the drug is then released at a constant rate for as long as you need it. The syringe is usually changed every 24 hours by a nurse. This method of giving drugs is known as subcutaneous infusion and is very effective in keeping people free of pain.
Syringe drivers are battery powered and portable so you can be up and about as usual. They clip easily onto a belt, fit into a pocket or bum bag, or can be placed in a specially designed holster that fits under your arm. Other medicines, such as anti-sickness medicines, can also be given by the syringe driver.
Some people worry that if they have advanced cancer and are given painkillers or other medicines by a syringe driver, this could hasten their death. This isn’t true. A syringe driver is simply a different way of giving the same or similar drugs at the doses needed to control your symptoms.