What Is An Insulin Infusion Pump?

The insulin infusion pump is often used to treat type 1 diabetes mellitus, especially in patients who cannot achieve good blood glucose control. Let’s explain how it works.
What is an insulin infusion pump?

The insulin infusion pump is a device  used to treat certain cases of  diabetes mellitus. Insulin is the molecule that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells. Glucose, in turn, is a key nutrient for energy.

What happens in diabetes is that the body cannot produce or use insulin. Therefore, glucose does not enter cells and its levels in the blood are above the proper level. This is what causes all the symptoms and complications of the disease.

The insulin infusion pump is very useful for people who do not have good glycemic control or  for those who need more flexibility in their routine, such as athletes. In this article, we’ll explain how it works, as well as what its advantages and disadvantages are.

How does the insulin infusion pump work?

The insulin infusion pump is a  small device programmed to deliver insulin into the fatty tissue under the skin. It is also called a  continuous subcutaneous insulin infuser .

In many diabetics, especially type 1 diabetics, treatment is based on administering insulin through subcutaneous injections. The problem is that patients need to follow strict control to avoid uncontrolled blood glucose levels.

The insulin infusion pump, as explained in an article from the Clínica Universidad de Navarra  , automatically delivers insulin at baseline and before meals. This saves the patient from having to give the injections.

This device is programmed according to the patient’s specific needs. That is, the doses and frequency of administration are programmed according to a previous study of each case of diabetes.

Insulin infusion pump parts

The insulin infusion pump is a small device. It is important to emphasize again that this is not a smart device, but that it  must be programmed in advance to fulfill its function.

The pump works thanks to a small electric motor. This motor, through a kind of piston, pushes the medicine cartridges into the tissue. As explained by an article in Diabetes Education Online , most pumps contain an insulin reservoir, a battery, a display, and the pump mechanism.

The device is outside the body and is connected to the subcutaneous tissue through a catheter  with a Teflon cannula. The insulin infusion pump as such can be attached to a specially designed belt or even carried in a pocket.

insulin infusion pump
Constant insulin injections are a problem for patients’ adherence to treatment.

When is it needed?

Insulin pump  may be needed to improve control of certain cases of type 1 diabetes. According to an article by  Medtronic , it is indicated when good glycemic control is not achieved, even though intensive treatment is already in use.

Many patients who receive regular insulin treatment experience frequent episodes of hypoglycaemia. This is also an indicator of poor control and therefore the pump can be useful in these cases.

The insulin infusion pump can be used for diabetics who need low doses. Likewise, it  is the treatment of choice for people who need flexibility  in their routine.

In other words, for people who can’t be constantly on the lookout to inject this molecule in the conventional way. This is the case of athletes, especially those who have physical activity as a profession.

Women planning to become pregnant, as well as patients with diabetic neuropathy, are also candidates for this treatment. However, the insulin infusion pump requires the patient to meet certain requirements.

It is essential to be involved in the treatment of the condition and have an interest in good glycemic control. In addition, you need to learn how to operate the pump and perform sufficient daily blood glucose checks.

Advantages of Insulin Infusion Pump

The insulin infusion pump, as mentioned in an article, has many advantages. It allows to control the dose of insulin very effectively.

Thanks to it, it is possible to make increments in very small amounts, which is very useful for children.

In addition, it also allows you to program the basal insulin rate at different speeds  according to the time of day. For example, highest during the first hours and lowest at night. Thus, the risk of hypoglycemia is reduced.

On the other hand, the insulin infusion pump allows you to make changes to the basal infusion temporarily. This is very useful for routine variations. For example, during a trip where there is a change in diet.

Disadvantages

While it may seem like the insulin pump has only good points, it actually has its downsides as well. We must keep in mind that this is an external device, which  must remain permanently connected to the body through the catheter.

Thus, it is not possible to take it off at any time, not even to sleep. That’s why many people feel uncomfortable or stuck with the device. In fact, some consider that there is an aesthetic impact as it can be seen under clothing.

Also, the catheter can become clogged or the pump itself can fail. This makes the patient lose control of blood glucose at that time. Therefore, it is also important that people who use it take daily and frequent measurements.

Care and recommendations

insulin infusion pump

The insulin infusion pump requires the patient to be aware of their illness and be responsible for their treatment. This is because it is necessary to maintain a series of care measures with the device.

According to Fundación Diabetes,  the subcutaneous catheter should be changed every 2 to 3 days. As it is a foreign body connected to the subcutaneous tissue, there is a risk of infection. Therefore, to make the switch, you need to follow some specific steps.  

First, it is necessary to wash your hands well in order to have the greatest possible asepsis. It is necessary to try to change the area where the catheter is inserted from time to time, otherwise the insulin may not be absorbed properly.

The normal thing is to place it in different places on the abdomen. You need to make sure the catheter is in good condition and fill the pump syringe with no bubbles left in it.

The skin on the abdomen must also be disinfected. Once the catheter has been inserted, a dressing is put on to ensure it does not slip out of place. It is recommended to  remove the insulin from the refrigerator about 24 hours before carrying out the replacement.

The insulin infusion pump requires responsibility

While it may seem that this device is the solution to treating diabetes, this is not always the case. This is a very useful form of treatment, but it requires the patient to be aware of the care and know how to handle it.

Therefore, the decision to place an insulin infusion pump must be agreed between the patient and the physician. It is important to meet a number of requirements for it to be useful.

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