Insulin Pumps

There are currently 6 insulin pumps available in the UK There are currently 6 insulin pumps available in the UK

Insulin pumps are portable devices that are attached to the body and deliver constant amounts of rapid or short acting insulin via a catheter placed under the skin.

Around 1 in 1,000 people with diabetes wears an insulin pump.

An insulin pump consists of the main pump unit which holds an insulin reservoir (usually 3ml capacity like the cartridges used in an insulin pen).

The reservoir is attached to a long, thin piece of tubing with a needle or cannula at one end. The tubing and the bit at the end are called the infusion set.

Guide to Insulin Pumps

Currently, 6 insulin pumps are available in the UK.

You can buy these yourself direct, but check that your diabetes clinic is happy to support you in your ongoing care if you’re on a pump. Or, you can ask your PCT to supply one for you but access to pumps on the NHS does vary according to where you live, although things are improving on that front.

How to use an insulin pump?

To use the pump, the cartridge is filled with fast-acting insulin and fitted inside the pump. The needle or cannula is inserted under the skin and held in place with an adhesive patch, which fixes to the surrounding skin. The other end of the tube is connected to the pump which then delivers insulin through this infusion set according to its programming.
Insulin pump history

Insulin pumps are a relatively new piece of diabetes design, invented in the 1970s, although the first insulin pump prototype was developed in 1963.

  • 1963: The first prototype of a 'pump' that delivered glucagon as well as insulin was similar to a backpack and was developed by Dr Arnold Kadish.
  • 1973: Dean Kamen invented the first wearable infusion pump.
  • 1976: AutoSyringe Inc begin to manufacture and market the pumps Dean Kamen invented.
  • 1976: Development of continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion begins (insulin pump therapy).
  • 1980s: BioStar glucose controlled insulin infusion system used- functioned as an artificial pancreas
  • 1990s: Minimed released.
  • 2012: Trials of artificial pancreas' begin in the USA.

Currently, companies such as Animas, Ypsomed and Medtronic lead the way in insulin pump technology, which has become smaller over the last 50 years.

What type of insulin do insulin pumps use?

Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin, a variety of which are available. There is no need to take long-acting insulin, because the insulin pump delivers constant amounts of insulin to the body.

What is the advantage of using an insulin pump?

Using an insulin pump has several key advantages. For instance, diabetics can instantly change insulin dose, meaning that changes are quicker to be felt. Furthermore, fast-acting insulin is more easily absorbed by the body, and it is more predictable than long-acting insulin.

Because the body gets a constant, regular flow of insulin, the effect of the insulin is more constant.

How does an insulin pump dose work?

With insulin pumps, two types of dose are taken:

  • Basal rate
  • Bolus dose
  • You may also take a correction or supplemental bolus

Basal rate

Basal rate of insulin is the same as a long-acting insulin regime for those diabetics without an insulin pump.

This program is consistent and regular, and controls the level of insulin getting into the bloodstream.

Modern insulin pumps allow users to regulate basal and bolus doses at the same time.

You can adjust the basal rate at any point.

Bolus dose

The bolus dose taken with an insulin pump is designed to counteract the food being eaten. Therefore, when a diabetic eats a snack or at mealtimes, the insulin pump can be programmed to provide an extra boost of insulin.

Furthermore, pumps can be programmed to release a bolus dose over a longer period, which could be ideal for meals in restaurants, etc.
Correction dose (or bolus)

You may also give a correction bolus of insulin if your blood sugar levels are too high or to reduce glucose levels to a normal range.

Are insulin pumps better for diabetics?

Supporters of insulin pumps believe that they allow diabetics to be more flexible, and eliminate the need for a wearing, daily routine.

A diabetic with an insulin pump does not necessarily have to rise at a certain time to take insulin. When it comes to the diabetes diet, insulin pumps allow diabetics to be more flexible with that they eat, if they are used in the correct way.