Blood Glucose

Insulin Pump Facts

January 11, 2017   /

Insulin pumps replace the need for insulin injections by delivering rapid-acting insulin continuously during the day. Insulin pumps are more often used by people with type 1 diabetes, but more people with type 2 diabetes are beginning to use them.

An insulin pump is slightly larger than a pager and often is worn either on a belt or kept in a pocket. A cannula is placed under the skin, usually in the abdomen or upper buttocks. It connects to the pump. The infusion usually is moved to a new location every 2 days. The pump continuously delivers small doses of insulin, known as basal insulin. You program the pump to release more insulin when you eat, known as bolus insulin. You can disconnect the tubing from the pump when you are bathing or swimming. However, many pumps are waterproof.

Advances in pump therapy
New pumps are in development that do not require tubing. These pumps allow for placement of the delivery device directly on the skin, with any adjustments made by using a personal digital assistant (PDA)-like device, which must stay within a 6-foot range of the delivery device, such as in a purse or on top of a work surface.

New glucose-sensing technology allows you to receive real-time glucose values. These implantable sensors communicate wirelessly with a device that has a screen, as long as the device is kept close enough to the sensors. The screen can display the current blood glucose reading, a glucose level history, and a potential rate of glucose change. You can program the sensors to beep if your blood sugar is running too high or too low, or if the level is dropping rapidly. One sensor actually “communicates” with the pump and causes the pump to “request” an adjustment according to the pattern that it is detecting. After these sensors are perfected in the near future, it is anticipated that they will become widely used.

The pros of using an insulin pump
The following are advantages of using an insulin pump:

  • Need for regular insulin injections is eliminated
  • Insulin is delivered more accurately via pump than injection
  • A1c levels often are improved once pump therapy is initiated
  • Insulin pumps allow for greater diet flexibility
  • Exercise is easier when using a pump

The cons of using an insulin pump
The following are disadvantages of using an insulin pump:

  • Insulin pumps can cause weight gain
  • The pump could possibly have a mechanical problem, causing hypoglycemia, which sometimes is quite dangerous
  • The pump is with you all of the time, which can take some time to get used to
  • Equipment sometimes is expensive, depending on what your insurance covers
  • Training is intense and time-consuming

The amount of insulin
The units of insulin that you use is averaged, and then this dosage is divided into roughly 40%–50% basal and 50%–60% bolus. The basal amount is divided into 24 hours to determine how much insulin you will need to receive each hour. This rate is then manipulated to cover regular highs and lows, such as times of higher activity during the day or the early morning hyperglycemia that many people experience.

The amount of insulin needed to cover your carbohydrate intake is then calculated into a ratio of units of insulin to grams of carbohydrate. The dose of insulin needed to cover high blood-glucose readings is then calculated.

What remains the same
You still will need to do the following if you switch to a pump:

  • Remember to take your insulin before eating
  • Bring extra supplies and a backup method along when you are traveling, just in case of equipment malfunction
  • Watch what you eat—talk to a registered dietitian if you have questions about this
  • Keep detailed records of glucose levels, insulin dosage, food intake, exercise, and other information that might help you and/or your health care providers correct any problems

References and recommended readings
American Diabetes Association®. Disadvantages of using an insulin pump. Available at: Accessed July 26, 2012.

American Diabetes Association. Getting started with an insulin pump. Available at: Accessed July 26, 2012.

American Diabetes Association. Insulin pumps. Available at: Accessed July 26, 2012.

dLife. Type 1 diabetes: insulin pump therapy. Available at: Accessed May 29, 2012. 

MedicineNet, Inc. Insulin pump for diabetes mellitus. Available at: Accessed July 26, 2012.