What is an insulin pump?
An insulin pump is a portable device used to deliver insulin. It is small enough to be placed in a pocket or on a belt. It is connected to a narrow tube that is attached to a needle which is inserted under the skin. The pump can be adjusted to deliver a small amount of insulin continuously or larger doses as needed.
Why is an insulin pump used?
If your child has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the type of diabetes that commonly affects children, your main goal is to maintain normal blood glucose levels by administering insulin to prevent any complications. Research shows that people with diabetes do best when their blood glucose levels are well-managed: uncontrolled high blood glucose levels long-term can damage the body's organs and cause problems with the kidneys, eyes, gums, feet, nerves and heart.
When should the insulin pump be placed?
Queensland Paediatric Endocrinology recommends that all newly-diagnosed children with type 1 diabetes start on an insulin pump as soon as possible (ideally within 1 month of diagnosis).
Insulin pump start-ups (and upgrades) are done during a short hospital admission. We can often start the insulin pump on the first day in hospital avoiding your child beginning multi-daily insulin injections. Queensland Paediatric Endocrinology admits to Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital and Wesley Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital in Toowoomba for insulin pump start-ups and upgrades. We use three brands of insulin pumps: Animas, Medtronic and Roche Spirit Combo®. The choice of pumps is yours: we can help you decide which is right for your child's needs.
How does the insulin pump work?
Insulin pumps deliver short-acting insulin 24 hours a day. You can use buttons on the insulin pump to control the dose. Insulin doses are divided into:
- Basal insulin: Small amount of insulin that can be continuously delivered throughout the day and night.
- Bolus insulin: A relatively larger amount of insulin that is given to cover carbohydrates during meals.
- Correctional insulin: Given if your child has high glucose levels for any reason.
What are the advantages of an insulin pump?
- Eliminates the need for regular injections
- Increased accuracy of insulin delivery
- Fewer variations in blood glucose levels
- Easier delivery of insulin bolus
- Increased flexibility regarding when and what your child eats
- Eliminates the unpredictability of intermediate and long-acting insulin
- Eliminates the need to consume a large amount of carbohydrates in order to exercise.
What are the disadvantages of an insulin pump?
- May cause weight gain
- May be expensive
- May be bothersome as you are attached to the pump all the time
- May require a full day for training to use the pump
- In rare cases, diabetic ketoacidosis may occur if the tube comes out and no insulin is received for hours.
Overall, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. An insulin pump is a device that gives you the flexibility of adjusting the insulin dose to match your child’s lifestyle rather than adjusting your child’s lifestyle to match the insulin dose.