Treatments & Therapies

Insulin Pump – Treatment, Effect & Risks

Insulin Pump

An insulin pump is a small device that constantly supplies the body with insulin via a plastic tube and a cannula.

With some models, the diabetic patient can check their glucose levels at any time while the pump takes over the tasks of a healthy pancreas . However, handling an insulin pump is not easy for beginners and requires extensive training. The pump does not stop automatically, so there is a hazard if a patient fails to notice a hypo and becomes unconscious.

What is the insulin pump?

An insulin pump supplies people with diabetes with insulin. The device is about the size of a mobile phone and can be attached to a belt, bra or other clothing with a clip.

This device is particularly suitable for type 1 diabetics . However, type 2 diabetics can also get the insulin pump if other therapy methods have failed. The insulin delivered meets the body’s basal needs throughout the day. At the push of a button, the patient can then add any additional insulin that is needed to his body. The catheter that pumps the insulin into the subcutaneous fatty tissue usually has to be replaced about every two days.

The adaptation of an insulin pump to the respective patient takes place on an inpatient or outpatient basis in a hospital or a specialist diabetology practice. There, the operation, the use and the handling of any faults are trained in detail. At least six months of experience with ICT insulin therapy and an HbA1c value below 10% are prerequisites for sensible therapy with an insulin pump.

Function, effect & goals

All insulin pumps are used with fast-acting regular or analog insulin. A narrow plastic catheter delivers insulin into the subcutaneous fatty tissue at intervals of a few minutes. After a thorough examination, the doctor determines the amount of insulin that is required. 

The pump can be programmed to deliver a different amount of insulin every hour. In addition, the delivery can be optimally adapted to individual needs at the push of a button. This makes it possible to administer insulin in public without attracting attention. Just as with conventional ICT insulin therapy, the patient has to measure and actively correct their blood sugar levels several times a day.

The various pump models from Germany are all easy to use and very reliable. They have an alarm function, which indicates when there is not enough insulin in the ampoule, as well as a comprehensive data memory. In addition, there are different additional functions depending on the model. Various programs can be set, which are tailored to different daily routines.

The insulin pump is particularly suitable for type 1 diabetics, as these patients need to be supplied with insulin around the clock. About a third of all diabetic children now have an insulin pump. Overall, the number of people being treated with an insulin pump is steadily increasing. Already 10 percent of all people with type 1 diabetes use this pump.

The main advantage of the insulin pump compared to conventional ICT insulin therapy is that the pump constantly releases small amounts of fast-acting insulin, eliminating the need to inject insulin with a pen. Therapy with the insulin pump thus enables more flexibility and thus a better quality of life. Above all, shift workers, athletes or people with an irregular daily routine benefit from insulin pump therapy.

Because the pumps are only about the size of a mobile phone and weigh around 120 grams, they can easily be hidden under clothing. The pump can be attached to a belt, bra or specially designed inner pockets on various items of clothing. There are currently conventional insulin pumps and the insulin patch pump. With the conventional pump, this is worn on the body. A tube and cannula connect the pump to the body.

The insulin patch pump does not need a tube and thus provides more freedom of movement. It consists of a “pod” that is glued to the skin and a “Personal Diabetes Manager” that can be used to control the pod. The goal of research into therapies for diabetics is an artificial pancreas that independently measures the glucose content in the body and accordingly releases insulin to the body.

Risks, side effects & dangers

An insulin pump cannot replace the function of a healthy pancreas and is also not suitable for every type of diabetes. Because the blood sugar level is not determined automatically, the patient is still dependent on checking his values ​​at least four times a day. In addition, the diabetic must be thoroughly familiar with the operation and the functions of the insulin pump.

If the device is not working properly in the meantime due to constipation or incorrect information, the insulin pump wearer must be able to switch to conventional ICT insulin therapy. Since the insulin pump constantly delivers small amounts of insulin to the body, it can be dangerous if the patient faints because of low blood sugar, since the added insulin intensifies this low blood sugar.

Some patients are also dissatisfied with the fact that their illness is visible because of this pump. Since this 24 hours is attached to the body with a tube, they feel less attractive. In addition, the wearer of the insulin pump must also deal with the complicated handling and be motivated to learn how to use this technology, since he is heavily dependent on this technology.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.