In the parents of kids with type 1 diabetes Facebook groups like this one, I frequently see posts of people asking what an insulin pump is and how to choose a pump. I thought I’d post a quick review of the basics of how a pump works. Hope this helps you all out!
What is an Insulin Pump?
An insulin pump is a sophisticated small computerized medical device (2-3 inches like a pager) that delivers insulin through a small tube in the skin. The pump is programmed to deliver insulin much like the pancreas releases insulin.
To deliver the insulin, buttons are pushed on the pump which deliver a dose through a small tube called a cannula under the skin. The cannula is inserted with a needle by the child or parent every two to three days. Less needle sticks is a great benefit for children!
There are two types of pumps, a tubeless or patch pump and a tubed pump.
The tubeless pump on the market is Omnipod, which consists of a “pod” that holds the insulin and is adhered to the skin with a self-injecting cannula. A PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager) is a separate device that is used to give an extra dose of insulin. The PDM directs the pod on how much insulin to give.
A tubed pump consists of three parts: a pump which is a small device that holds insulin, a reservoir or cartridge which contains the insulin in the pump, and an infusion set which is a tube that connects to the reservoir or cartridge and a cannula which is inserted into the skin.
How does an insulin pump work?
The basal rate is a “baseline” of insulin to replace the long-acting insulin. It is continuously dripping automatically while wearing the pump. In order to get the constant drip, the pump must be worn 24 hours a day. Insulin pumps can be easily removed up to an hour at a time without having to re-insert the needle and cannula.
A bolus is given for an extra dose of insulin for meals, snacks, or to correct a high blood sugar. This is easily done by pushing buttons on the pump. No stick required!
Pumps really have changed my children’s lives! I had no idea what a pump was when the doctor told me my son needed one. They make our lives so much easier and simpler.
If you are considering a pump and want to learn more, be sure and get the free first chapter of the book Pumping Kids- A Step by Step Guide to Insulin Pumps and join the Facebook group Pumping Kids and join in on the discussion!