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Patient-controlled analgesia is a relatively recent development driven by the poor history of pain control with conventional methods. The patient has a button that can be pressed in order to release a set quantity of analgesic into the body. The common route of administration is intravenously in the U.K., but epidural routes have been advocated elsewhere.
The infusion machine is programmed only to give a certain amount of analgesic within a given period. The total amount of analgesic dispensed is also regulated. Some machines just provide a bolus in response to patient triggering. Others can provide a bolus on top of a steady state infusion. The most commonly used agents for patient-controlled analgesia are the opioids.