Shoulder Surgery – Pain Catheter Instructions

Pain Catheter Instructions – Post-Operative

Shoulder / Arm Block with the On-Q Pump

  1. The catheter and pain pump work very well for controlling the pain. The effects could last from 12-72 hours.
  2. When the pain starts or you start getting less numbness:
  • Start one pain pill right away and keep on taking one every four hours. You may bump that up as well to 2 pills every 4 hours.
  • Go up on the pain pump. The staff usually sets the control on “8” to start out. Go ahead and dial it up to 12 or 14 if you are in moderate pain. If you feel your shoulder is too numb, you can dial the pump down from “8”.
  • Some people have a low tolerance for pain medicine. If you are very drowsy and the narcotic is making you very sleepy, back off a little and do not “double up” on the medication.
  • Pain medications are usually prescribed and should be taken as directed by your physician.
  • When the pump is out of fluid you will need to remove the catheter from your neck / shoulder area. This is really simple. Just take off the tape / dressing that is on and the little catheter will come right out. There will be no need to redress the area.

Polar Ice

  1. The polar ice machine helps reduce swelling and also helps tremendously with the pain.
  2. Use it as much as you can for the first 48 hours.
  3. If it is not getting cold enough here are some trouble shooting tips.
  • Make sure that the cooler is full of ice and water. The pump has to be underwater for it to work.
  • If the pump is on and the pad is not getting cold there may be a kink in the pad. Try straightening the pad to allow the water to flow through.
  • If the pad is cold but it is not reaching deep enough into your shoulder/arm try removing the green or blue towel that was placed underneath it in the OR. I place this to protect the skin from severe cold while your shoulder is numb from the block.
  • If your machine just does not work there should be a phone number on the cooler. Call the number and let them know what the problem is with the device.


This resource has been provided by Edward Seade, M.D. as general information only. Additional information can be found by visiting our clinic. Please call for an appointment at 512-583-0219

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