Everything That You Need to Know About Insulin Pumps

insulin pumps

An insulin pump is not a cure but a method of insulin delivery. It is a small pager-like device that mechanically pumps set amounts of fast-acting insulin into a person’s body. Insulin pumps require you to set “basal rates”–a rate of background insulin that is always present, and the calculation of insulin to food ratios, or bolus amounts, that are used whenever food is eaten.

Unlike Multiple Daily Injection therapy (MDI), pump therapy does not use a long-lasting insulin.  Small amounts of fast-acting insulin are delivered throughout the day. For some this leads to feelings of unease as the threat of DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) is greater. Other people feel a sense of freedom as they no longer are forced to follow the clock.  When using an insulin pump you no longer need to be concerned about the peaks of long-lasting NPH insulin or the limitations of a single basal rate offered by insulin glargine.

An insulin pump lets you set a variety of “basal rates” to meet the naturally occurring needs of your body. It further allows you to match insulin to carbohydrate intake rather than having to “feed” your insulin. You now chose to eat, snack or graze when you want and however much you want. 

Pumping insulin is not for everyone. It is another method of insulin delivery. Some do not like the idea of being attached to a mechanical device 24/7 but the freedom, flexibility and tight control often outweigh any of the negative concerns.

Please take your time when choosing an insulin pump. You need to the pump to fit with your needs and your lifestyle. We have a detailed outline of each pump company’s current styles and features, as well as opinions for those who are currently using an insulin pump.

A basic insulin pump system currently costs approximately $7200CAD* and requires monthly pump supplies. These costs are often, but not always covered by private insurance plans.  In Canada, some provinces recognize the long-term benefits of covering insulin pumps and supplies under their provincial health care policies. You can learn which provinces offer you coverage here

A continous glucose monitor (CGM) can be a part of an insulin pump. These pumps are known as “sensor augmented pumps”. A  CGM can also be stand-alone device used by both pumpers and those on multiple daily injections.

Insulin Pumps Currently Available

Medtronic 670G

Features: This is considered to be the first hybrid, closed-loop insulin pump.

  • Automatically adjusts your basal (background) insulin every five minutes using micro bolusing based on your CGM readings.
  • Stops insulin up to 30 minutes before reaching your preset low limits.
  • Automatically restarts insulin when your levels recover without any alerts
  • Remote bolusing from Contour next meter
  • Uses Medtronic patented infusion sets
  • Uploads to Careline software
  • 300 unit cartridges/reservoirs
  • CGM integration shows blood glucose readings on the insulin pump screen
    every five minutes making it easy to spot trends and make adjustments
  • You can set this pump to auto mode and the insulin pump will make its own basal adjustments or set to manual to adjust yourself
  • Temp basal up to 200% for 30minutes-24 hours
  • Bolus Wizard Calculator to assist in figuring out meal boluses
  • Waterproof
  • Predictive alerts
  • Colour screen
  • Approved for use in individuals 7 years old and over

OmniPod

OmniPod

Features: This is the only tubeless insulin pump currently available on the North American market.

  • Tubeless
  • 200 unit pods
  • 2 AAA batteries
  • Batteries last 4 weeks
  • Automatic inserter with no visible needles
  • Pink slide insert window to ensure the cannula has deployed
  • Strong adhesive
  • Pod has a durable, water-proof exterior shell
  • Handheld PDM has built-in FreeStyle blood glucose (BG) meter
  • PDM has large color screen with bright light option
  • Customizable ID screen
  • Test strip port light for low-light conditions
  • Suggested bolus calculator
  • Downloadable data
  • Intuitive prompts
  • Reduced upfront costs
  • Discreet
  • Temporary basal rates from 30minutes to 12 hours

Tandem t:slimX2 Insulin Pump

Features: This is the only insulin pump currently offering DexCom integration

  • 38% smaller than other insulin pumps
  • 300 unit reservoir/cartridge
  • Colour, shatter resistant, touch screen
  • Fastest bolus entry
  • Can bolus up to 50 units
  • Site-change reminder w/customizable day and time
  • Graphic on screen history
  • Bolus calculator
  • Temp basal up to 250%, 72 hrs
  • Can set duration of insulin action in 1-minute increments
  • IOB shown on home screen
  • Missed bolus reminders
  • Warns of high and low insulin temps
  • Uses Tandem t-lock infusion sets
  • Uses a rechargeable battery
  • New Basal-IQ™ Technology with Dexcom G6 available in US markets
  • remote software upgrades

infusion sets

Insulin pump infusion sets

All tubed insulin pumps require the use of an infusion set. This is the composed of the site (the piece that attaches to the body) and the tubing which attaches to the insulin pump.

Infusion sets come in three basic options…90 degree sets30 degree sets and steel cannulas.  Consider your weight, activity level, dexterity, and where you are planning on placing an infusion set before you decide which infusion set to use.

90 degree infusion sets

90 degree infusion sets are what the name implies, they are infusion sets with sites that can be inserted straight into the body. They are available in either steel or teflon (clear)  cannula.

AutoSoft90

AutoSoft™ 90For those looking for a softer, teflon cannula, you can order this infusion set to be manually inserter or order the ones that have a built-in inserter. It has a small, flat infusion set design.  You can insert them with one-hand when using the inserter.  The inserter has a hidden introducer needle which can be helpful for people who are needle phobic. The site is connected to the tubing at the body with this infusion set. It has a convenient needle protector after use.  These sets are safe to carry without compromising sterility. They come in 23 and 43 inch tubing and a 27 gauge introducer needle with 6 and 9mm cannulas.

TruSteel infusion set
TruSteel™

If you have had issues with tissue damage or are prone to kinked cannulas, steel infusion sets could be a great option for you. These infusion sets are manually inserted at a 90-degree angle. You must change them out every 2-3 days.

Cleo

The Cleo infusion set is distributed by Smith Medical®  and has a built-in,
automated injector for people using luer lock connections.

cleo infusion set
Cleo

30 degree sites

Like the 90-degree sites, 30-degree sites can be manually inserted or placed with the help of a built-in insertion device. You insert these sets at an angle of up to 30 degrees.  They are good for active, thin, or muscular individuals.

30 degree Autosoft30
AutoSoft™ 30

Using sites with a built-in inserter makes one-handed insertion easy. It has a well-protected introducer needle which makes it perfect for those who are needle phobic.  For those who prefer to manually control the speed at which the inserter needle enters the body, a manual version of this site also exists.

The transparent window on 30-degree sites makes it easy to view the skin below.

With this infusion set, you disconnect and connect the tubing at the site on the body.

Where do you place an infusion set?

site rotation mapJust like when using injection therapy, insulin infusion sites must be rotated.  Sitemaps like this one may help to keep
track of insertion sites and reduce the chance of hypertrophy.

You can place an infusion set in any of a number of places on your body.  Any area that you used for injections may also be used for infusion sets.  Here are just some examples…

How do you wear your pump?

This is a question that a lot of people struggle with. They wonder what to do with their pump in their daily lives, at night and during intimate times.  It is all a matter of personal preference.  You can use pump pouches, clips, pockets, and some people will simply place them in an old sock pinned to the body. Do what works for you but here are a few options.

Pump clips…

wearing an insulin pump  Okay, we admit that this isn’t the traditional way a pump clip is worn!

Pump Pouches

insulin pump pouch

 Spibelt

spibelt

More information on Insulin Pump Therapy…

*price may vary. Affiliate links are used on this page.