An insulin pump is a small computerized device used in the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes. The device is battery-operated and about the size of a pager. It delivers small amounts of fast acting insulin. A small tube runs from a "reservoir" of insulin housed inside the pump to an infusion site in the wearer.
Pump users still need to test their blood sugar on a regular basis, usually 6-8 times a day.
Insulin pumps are an example of intensive insulin therapy. Intensive insulin therapy attempts to mimic the way a healthy person's body would natural produce insulin.
On a pump, this is done by having a basal amount of insulin continuously infuse. A basal rate is set in units/hour, and on current pumps, can have different rates set for different times of day. The pump then delivers this amount.
When a user eats, a bolus dose is programmed. This is a larger amount of insulin programmed to deliver all at once. The bolus dose is based on how many grams of carbohydrate the user is eating, and what their current blood sugar is. A smart pump, like many of the current pumps, will calculate this for the user.
A bolus dose of insulin can also be programmed to deliver to lower a high blood sugar.
- Basal rates deliver the specific amount of insulin needed at that moment, rather than having a long acting insulin peak, or deliver a flat amount if different amounts are needed for different times of day.
- Because the insulin is based on what is being eaten, and when, the user has the ability to eat what and when they want.
- Pumps can be programmed to have alarms to remind the user to test their blood glucose or do some other task.
- Smart pumps eliminate math from diabetes and track insulin on board.
- Pumps have a memory that can show when a bolus was given, and in what amount. Some pumps will also store blood glucose readings.
- Since pumps only use fast acting insulin, the amount of insulin in the body can be increased or decreased for exercise or other events that may require more or less insulin, and therefore, prevent low blood sugar episodes.
- Pumps eliminate the need for injections; the infusion set gets changed every 2-3 days instead.
- Pumps can give boluses over an extended period of time to accommodate food that digests slower, such as pizza.
- Since only fast-acting insulin is used, blood glucose can rise quickly if delivery is stopped, and possibly lead to ketoacidosis.
- Pumps cost approximately $6,000 in the US. Monthly supplies are often around $200 or more as well.
- Pumps need to be worn almost all the time, and may present an outward sign of the user's diabetes.
For a comparison of different pumps currently on the market, this link provides reviews