Insulin Pumps

Insulin pumps can be utilitzed to improve blood sugars for many patients with diabetes mellitus

What is a pump?

The "pump" is a small battery-powered mechanical syringe/reservoir device controlled by a micro-computer to deliver insulin continuously. They are also called continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII) devices. The basis of the use of insulin pump therapy is intensive insulin management (the basal bolus method, multiple daily dose insulin). Typical devices have a two to three day supply of insulin connected to an infusion set attached to a small needle or cannula programmed to deliver a steady basal amount of insulin and release a bolus dose at meals and at programmed intervals. There are many different manufacturers of insulin pumps (Medtronic, Omnipod, T-Slim, Accu-Chek, One Touch, Animas), all with different advantages and disadvantages. An insulin pump is considered Durable Medical Equipment under most insurance plans. The endocrinologists at Houston Thyroid and Endocrine are experts in the use of insulin pumps. Our diabetes educator can help you navigate the various pumps and help you choose.

Who should be on a pump?

A good candidate for an insulin pump should be a diabetes patent meeting these criteria: insulin deficient, require multiple daily doses of insulin, able to master the basal bolus method of insulin delivery, are able to accurately to count carbohydrate, and willing to wear a device on their body. Most patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus are good candidates for insulin pumps. On the other hand, most patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are not always good candidates for an insulin pump. Placement on a pump does not automatically mean you will have excellent blood sugars.

Insulin pumps myths

Ask the endocrinologists about these common pump misconceptions:

1. An insulin pump takes all the hard work out of taking insulin

In order to deliver the proper amount of insulin while on a pump a patient STILL has to check finger-stick blood sugars with each meal AND count the carbohydrate content of each meal. This data must be entered into the pump's calculations. It should be noted that insulin pumps do not "think for the patient" and required effort on the part of the user since they are not self-regulating.

2. An insulin pump might cause lots of low blood sugars at night

In fact, use of insulin pumps can reduce overnight hypoglycemia since the basal rates can be adjusted minute-to-minute. Some pumps can connect to continuous glucose monitoring systems to warn of impending low blood sugars.

3. Pumps are massive devices that make it obvious a patient has diabetes

Pump technology is rapidly changing. Devices are now available which are smaller than your cell phone and can easily be hidden under clothing.