Insulin Pumps | What They Are and How They Work

Insulin Pumps | What They Are and How They Work

January 20, 2020 2 By Jose Scott


Hi, and welcome back to Type 1 Diabetes
Explained. Aside from CGMs, there’s another
piece of technology that is widely used in diabetes treatment. This is the
insulin pump. Imagine this: a world without injections every day, dosing for
meals was easy and discreet, and you had complete control over your basal insulin
to help prevent lows. This is what comes with an insulin pump. Imagine insulin
pumps as an injection that lasts for a very long time, but with only a little
pain at the beginning. They are small computerized devices that deliver small
doses of insulin all day, like a pancreas would, and can also deliver larger doses
for meals. Insulin pumps come in all shapes and sizes, but there are two main
different types. There are traditional pumps, which have a separate pump and
infusion site, and there are patch pumps, which are all in one unit and just sit
on top of the skin. So let’s take a look at the basic aspects of insulin pumps
there are four basic parts: the pump, the cartridge, the tubing, and the infusion
site. In patch pumps, all of these parts are together in one device, but in a
traditional pumps they are separate. The pump is what holds the motor and
computer that controls the amount of insulin being pumped into the body and
the cartridge is the part that actually holds the insulin. Pumps vary on their
insulin capacity, whether or not they are waterproof, and what additional features
they have. The type of pump that will work best for someone differs based on
their lifestyle. If someone enjoys swimming and many
other outdoor activities, they may prefer patch pump as they are generally
waterproof and can stay on during most physical activity, whereas others may
prefer traditional pumps as they are generally less bulky when on the body.
The tubing is simply the part that connects the pump to the infusion site.
Taller or more active patients may prefer longer tubing as it gives them a
little more slack to move, while others may prefer less tubing to keep it out of
the way. The infusion site is what actually goes into the body. It has a
small cannula, which can vary in length, which injects the insulin into the body.
The infusion sites may also come in two different types.
Straight sets insert the needle at a 90 degree angle. This type is often
preferred when you insert it on the arm and also has a shorter needle. Angled
sets insert the needle at an angle usually between 35 and 50 degrees.
These sets are often preferred by skinnier or more active patients, as the
needles don’t go as far into the skin. The insulin pumps can be injected in
similar areas is where you would inject insulin with a pen, but the abdomen is the most common place. Ask your doctors about where’s the best
for you to use your insulin pump. Same as with injections, the site where you
insert your insulin pump must be rotated to ensure that scar tissue does not
build up and lead to complications while using your insulin pump. Although all
insulin pumps are different, there are some common procedures between all of
them. Every insulin pump needs to be filled with insulin. This should be done
through a needle and a syringe, not an insulin pen. The insulin will come in
small glass vials of about a thousand units. Ensure that you follow your
doctors and the manufacturer’s instructions upon how to properly fill
your insulin pump. More active patients or those who enjoy watersports may need
extra adhesive tape to keep the pump on. Ask your doctor about what would be best for you to use in this regard. Some insulin pumps will also integrate with the
CGM, so that you can read your blood sugar on the pump. A new piece of
emerging technology is where the insulin pump looks at the data from your CGM,
predicts lows are highs, and then changes the basal rate. This is the closest that
we have come to a completely closed loop system, and is bringing us closer and
closer all the time to a day where diabetes might only mean using an
implantable, bionic pancreas.