PURPOSE: The properties, performance, and applications of nonelectric disposable infusion pumps are reviewed. SUMMARY: All nonelectric disposable infusion pumps exploit the same physical principle: mechanical restriction within the flow path determines the speed of pressurized fluid. The pressure generated by disposable pumps on fluid is 250-600 mm Hg, compared with 5-1200 mm Hg of pressure for electric pumps. There are several types of disposable infusion pumps, including elastomeric, positive-pressure (spring-powered and gas-pressure-powered), negative-pressure (vacuum), and patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pumps. The accuracy of each pump's flow rate is dependent on several factors, including temperature, fluid viscosity, atmospheric pressure, back pressure, partial filling, and storage. Disposable infusion pumps can be used in many areas, including home care, PCA, patient-controlled epidural analgesia, continuous peripheral analgesia, continuous epidural analgesia, continuous i.v. analgesia, and pediatrics applications. The advantages of disposable infusion pumps include their light weight, small size, simplicity of use, independence from an external power supply, elimination of programming errors, and disposability. Disadvantages include the possibility of inaccurate flow rates, fixed reservoir volume, lack of a facility to change the flow rate and bolus-dose volume to provide adequate analgesia, inability to trace the history of the analgesia demand by patients, inability to combine PCA with background continuous infusions, and long-term cost. CONCLUSION: Despite some disadvantages and limited areas of applicability, disposable infusion pumps provide patients with advantages, such as portability, simplicity, and disposability, especially for the administration of analgesia. Understanding their physical and mechanical characteristics and their appropriate application may optimize patient care.