Syringe Pumps - West Suffolk Hospital

PATIENT INFORMATION
Syringe Pumps
This leaflet aims to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about syringe
pumps. As you are being offered one for your medication we hope this information is
helpful. However, if anything is unclear, please feel free to talk to a member of the
Health Team caring for you.
Introduction
The syringe pump is battery powered and is placed in a lockable clear plastic box, which
can be carried. Alternatively, if you have a shoulder bag, it can be placed in this so your
mobility is not restricted.
Attached to the pump will be a syringe containing your medication. This will be attached
to a length of thin tubing with a thin plastic needle at the end.
When a syringe pump is started, the nurse will place the plastic needle just under the
skin. This needle will be placed either on your chest, tummy or the top of your arm or
leg. This will be held in place with a small clear dressing. You may feel the plastic
needle as it is inserted into the skin but this feeling will soon wear off. The needle can
stay in one place for several days and will be taken out and a new one inserted if the
needle gets sore or uncomfortable.
The syringe pump uses a 9-volt alkaline battery. When the syringe pump is working, a
light on the front of the syringe pump flashes green to indicate the battery has power.
The syringe pump doesn’t make a noise whilst working. However, when the infusion is
complete or the syringe pump detects a problem you will hear an alarm, the infusion will
stop and a message appears on the display screen indicating the cause of the alarm.
The light on the front of the syringe pump turns red.
A new battery lasts for approximately 4-5 days. When the battery is almost depleted,
with 30 minutes left to run, the display screen on the syringe pump will read ‘Low
Battery’ and the alarm will bleep twice every 3 minutes. As the battery depletes, the
screen will display ‘End Battery’ and the syringe pump will stop and will alarm until the
battery is exhausted. In any of the above situations, please notify your nurse.
What are the advantages of a syringe pump?
People of all ages with various medical conditions use a syringe pump for a number of
reasons. Sometimes medication can be difficult to take because of nausea or vomiting,
Source: Palliative Care
Reference No: 5584-4
Issue date: 3/11/16
Review date: 3/11/18
Page: 1 of 3
or difficulty in swallowing. The syringe pump enables you to continue receiving your
essential medication such as painkillers and/or anti sickness preparations.
The syringe pump can be used as a temporary method of receiving treatment to control
symptoms prior to a return to oral medication (tablets or liquids) or it can be used for
long periods of time for patients on regular medication.
Why do I need one?
Sometimes it is easier for you to have some of your medicines this way. This may be
because:

You have been vomiting and find it difficult to keep your medicines down.
Medicines to help stop vomiting are given in the syringe pump, along with
medicines to help other symptoms such as pain. Once the vomiting has settled
you may go back to having your medicines by mouth.

You have so many medicines to take that you are finding it difficult to manage
them all. Putting some of the medicines in the syringe pump can reduce the
number of medicines you need take by mouth.

You are unable to swallow medicines. Medicines to help your symptoms can be
put into the syringe pump.
Starting a syringe pump doesn’t mean that your medicines have stopped working or
aren’t strong enough, only that this is a more effective way of getting them into your
body, if you cannot take them by mouth.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
The medicines in the syringe pump will work in your bloodstream throughout the 24 hour
period, controlling your symptoms. Any adjustments to the medications will be made by
the Hospital or Hospice staff, GP or District Nurse. Do not interfere with the syringe
pump.
You must keep the syringe pump and the infusion site dry. Take care when washing or
bathing to keep the syringe pump dry. If you drop it into water contact your nurse, a new
syringe pump will be needed to ensure that your medicines are being given at the right
rate.
The syringe pump should not be exposed to direct sunlight, as the medications inside
the pump may be affected. If going outside, the syringe pump must be in a shoulder
bag, so it is covered and protected from direct sunlight.
Source: Palliative Care
Reference No: 5584-4
Issue date: 3/11/16
Review date: 3/11/18
Page: 2 of 3
The syringe pump should not be exposed to extremes of heat. Avoid placing the syringe
pump next to a heat pad, electric blanket or hot water bottle. Do not cover the syringe
pump with blankets or a duvet. However, just placed under a bed sheet is fine.
It is advisable not to use a mobile phone near a syringe pump as it may affect the way
the pump works.
If you notice any of the following, contact your nurse as soon as possible:

The colour of the medicines in the syringe or tubing has changed.

There is cloudiness or sediment in the tubing.

The skin around the needle is red, swollen or painful.

The alarm on the pump sounds.

The display screen reads ‘Low Battery’.
Whilst in hospital, if you have any questions, please discuss with ward staff or
telephone the Palliative Care Team on 01284 713776, who are available
Monday—Friday 09:00 –17:00.
If discharged, with a syringe pump, please contact your GP or District Nurse.
© West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Source: Palliative Care
Reference No: 5584-4
Issue date: 3/11/16
Review date: 3/11/18
Page: 3 of 3