Insulin Pump Therapy

For many persons with type 1 diabetes, an insulin pump provides an insulin delivery system that closely resembles the way insulin is naturally produced in a person who does not have diabetes.  There are many different types and models of pumps available. Pumps are worn on a belt, strapped with a Velcro band, tucked in a pocket or bra, hidden under clothing.   The new patch pumps are so small they can be conveniently worn on arms, or even on the abdomen bottom or thigh.

 A thin plastic or metal cannula is inserted under the skin in an area where it won’t rub against clothing and where it can be taped securely in place.  The cannula is connected to plastic tubing which leads to the pump.  Tubing is absent in patch pumps.  The cannula and tubing are called an infusion set.  The pump works by pushing down on a syringe to provide insulin to the body.  Every two or three days, the needle and tubing are thrown away and a new infusion set is reinserted under the skin.

 Pumps are about the size of a small mobile phone.  The pump provides a constant trickle of rapid-acting insulin through the tubing and cannula into the body.  In this way, the pump provides an almost continuous flow of insulin under the skin.  This continuous flow is called the basal rate.  It can be adjusted depending on insulin requirements during different parts of the day.

 

Insulin pumps are used by some people who have type 1 diabetes who want more flexibility or have hard-to-control diabetes – those who have trouble keeping their blood glucose levels in the normal range and those who suffer from frequent hypos and have no hypo awareness.  Some people who use this method of therapy find that they feel better and their blood glucose levels are within the normal range more consistently.

 

Use of the insulin pump may be very beneficial, but it does not “manage” diabetes for the person using it.  Pump users must still perform all the other tasks of diabetes care such as following a meal plan, monitoring blood glucose 4-6 times per day and keeping accurate records.   We all of course hope that the development of the “artifical pancreas” with complete automated control of blood glucose will be a reality in a few years.

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