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From Indianapolis, Indiana, USA:

I have been approached regarding an insulin pump. How exactly do they work and what surgery is involved? I have type 2 diabetes and have been diabetic for 20 years. I'm currently taking up to 5 shots a day.


The insulin pump is also referred to as "continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion". An insulin pump has two basic features: 1) delivery of small amounts of insulin continuously in small pulses to replace the "basal" insulin requirement. Basal insulin is about half of your total daily requirement and you can think of it like "baseline", the small amount you need continuously to keep your blood glucose in a normal range, and 2) the "bolus" feature. Bolus insulin is the squirt of insulin you need to cover the food you eat. The basal insulin profile is usually programmed into the pump so that the peaks and valleys of your individual basal requirement are matched by the pump. The bolus amounts are usually given at your direction when you eat based on what you are eating. You will learn how to calculate the amount of insulin needed at a bolus based on your current blood glucose, food eaten and exercise anticipated. The pump uses only rapid acting insulin, either Regular or Humalog.

Most people can improve their control and reduce hypoglycemia with the pump, although most people who use a pump are people with Type 1 diabetes. It is unusual for a person with Type 2 to need a pump because people with type 2 typically have sufficient basal insulin during the day and because they have other problems, such as insulin resistance, that cause their elevated glucose levels.

The pumps in current use are about the size of a pager and worn like a pager either on or in your clothing. The insulin is delivered by a small needle or catheter inserted into the fat, like where your insulin is given now. No surgery is required. The infusion set tubing and needle are changed every 2-3 days and the pump holds up to 300 units of insulin in a cartridge held in the pump. Pumps aren't for everyone; but for the person who needs a pump, they can be a real lifesaver.


Original posting 13 Feb 1999
Posted to Insulin Pumps


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:02
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