What is an insulin infusion pump?

The insulin infusion pump is a device that is used to treat certain cases of Mellitus diabetes. Insulin is the molecule that allows glucose to enter the cells of the body. Glucose, for its part, is the fundamental nutrient they need for energy.

What happens in diabetes is that the body cannot make or use insulin. Therefore, blood glucose levels rise above the appropriate concentration. This is what causes all the symptoms and complications of the disease.

The insulin infusion pump is very useful for people who have poor glucose control or for those who need more flexibility in their routine, like athletes. In this article we explain how it works, what are its advantages and disadvantages.

How does the insulin infusion pump work?

The insulin infusion pump is a small device that is programmed to deliver insulin into adipose tissue, under the skin. It is also called 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 must follow strict control to avoid uncontrolled glucose levels.

The insulin infusion pump, as explained in an article by the Clínica Universidad de Navarra, automatically administers basal insulin and before meals. It prevents the patient from having to carry out the injections.

This device is programmed according to the specific needs of the sick person. That is, the doses and frequency of administration are loaded based on a previous study of each case of diabetes.

Insulin Infusion Pump Parts

The insulin infusion pump, as we just noted, is a small device. It is important to emphasize again that it is not a smart device, but rather It must be previously programmed to fulfill its function.

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

The device is placed outside the body and connected to the subcutaneous tissue thanks to a catheter with a Teflon cannula. The insulin infusion pump itself can be attached to a belt designed for it or even carried in your pocket.

Constant insulin injections are a problem for patients' adherence to treatment.

When is it necessary?

The insulin infusion pump may be necessary to improve the control of certain cases of type 1 diabetes. As explained in an article by Medtronic, is indicated when good glucose control is not achieved despite being already in intensive therapy.

Many patients receiving regular insulin therapy experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia. This is also an indicator of poor control, so the pump can be of use.

The insulin infusion pump can be used for diabetics who require low doses. In the same way, is the treatment of choice for those who require flexibility in your routine.

That is to say, for those who cannot be so eager to inject this molecule in the conventional way. This is the case of athletes, especially those in whom physical activity is their profession.

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

It is essential that you are involved in the pathology and there is interest in good glycemic control. In addition, you must learn to operate the pump and perform sufficient daily blood glucose checks.

Insulin Infusion Pump Advantages

The insulin infusion pump, as mentioned in an article, has many advantages. Allows very effective insulin dose control.

Thanks to it, increments of very small quantities can be made, which is very useful in the case of children.

What's more, allows you to program the basal insulin rate at different speeds, according to the time of the day. For example, highest during the first hours and lowest throughout the night. This reduces the risk of hypoglycemia.

On the other hand, the insulin infusion pump makes it possible to make changes to the basal infusion temporarily. This is very useful for variations in routine. For example, when you go on a trip and change your diet.

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Although it may seem that the insulin infusion pump has only positive points, the truth is that it is not without its disadvantages. We must bear in mind that it is an external device, that must remain permanently attached to the body through the catheter.

It is not valid to take it off at any time, not even to sleep. This is why many people feel uncomfortable or tied to the device. In fact, some consider that it has an aesthetic impact, since it can be noticed with clothing.

The catheter can become clogged or the pump itself can fail. This means that the patient loses control of glycemia at that moment. Hence, it is also important that the people who carry it make daily and frequent determinations.

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Care and recommendations

Frequent blood glucose monitoring is vital to ensure successful pump use.

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

As explained by the Diabetes Foundation, 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 change you have to follow some concrete steps.

The first thing is to wash your hands well to have the greatest possible asepsis. Try to change the area where the catheter is inserted from time to time, otherwise the insulin may not be absorbed properly.

The usual thing is to place it in different points of the abdomen. Check that the catheter is in good condition and fill the pump syringe without leaving bubbles inside.

The skin of the abdomen must also be disinfected. Once the catheter has been inserted, a dressing is placed to ensure that it does not dislodge from that site. It is recommended remove the insulin from the refrigerator about 24 hours before the replacement.

The insulin infusion pump requires responsibility

Although it may seem that this device is the solution for the treatment of diabetes, it is not always the case. It is a very useful form of treatment, but requires the patient to be aware of the care and who knows how to handle it.

Therefore, the decision to place an insulin infusion pump must be agreed between the patient and the doctor. It is important that a series of requirements are met for it to be useful.