Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) is an effective method for controlling acute pain, including postoperative pain in adults and in children from five years of age, pain resulting from labor, trauma, or other medical situations, or chronic and malignant pain. The treatment consists of a mini-computer-controlled infusion pump permitting the administration of on-demand, continuous, or combined doses of analgesic (mainly opioid) variations in response to therapy, which allows pain to be significantly controlled. Intravenous (IV)-PCA minimizes individual pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetic differences and is widely accepted as a reference method for mild or severe postoperative pain. IV-PCA is the most studied route of PCA; other delivery methods have been extensively reported in the literature. In addition, IV-PCA usually voids the gap between pain sensation and analgesic administration, permitting better recovery and fewer side effects. The most commonly observed complications are nausea and vomiting, pruritus, respiratory depression, sedation, confusion and urinary retention. However, human factors such as pharmacy preparation and device programming can also be involved in the occurrence of these complications, while device failure is much less of an issue.