How is an Insulin Pump Inserted?

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How is an Insulin Pump Inserted?
How is an Insulin Pump Inserted? (Image: Carolyn Stendahl, studioStendahl, 2009)

Insulin Pumping Basics

An insulin pump is an external device that simulates how a human pancreas functions to deliver insulin. About 250,000 diabetics worldwide wear insulin pumps as an alternative to taking insulin shots. So, how does it work? The pump uses fast-acting insulin that flows through thin, flexible tubing connected to your body. You can connect the pump to different locations on your body, depending on your preferences and where you have been wearing it previously. As a pump user, you have the flexibility to select from the following locations: stomach, hips, outer thigh, buttocks and the back of your arms. Several different pumps are available on the market. Major pump manufacturers include Medtronic MiniMed, Animas, Deltec, Insulet, Disetronic, Nipro and Sooil USA.

Location, Location, Location---Finding an Insertion Site

When selecting a location to insert the pump, consider your clothing, especially the location of waistbands or other tight-fitting areas. These can rub against the insertion site, making it uncomfortable and potentially interfere with insulin delivery. Another consideration is insulin absorption. While the stomach may absorb insulin quickly and require less insulin, another location, such as the outer thigh, may require an adjustment to ensure blood sugar stability. No matter what location is chosen, you will need to rotate the site every two to three days.

Connecting to Your Body

Let's walk through how to insert the pump. Gather all of your supplies, including the insertion device, fast-acting insulin, reservoir or cartridge, skin prep, infusion set and insulin pump. Wash your hands thoroughly and prepare the insertion site with the recommended skin prep. Fill the reservoir or cartridge with the amount of insulin determined by your physician. Connect the reservoir to the infusion set. Place the infusion set into the insertion device. Prime the pump, removing the old cartridge if necessary and replacing it with the new one. Retract the inserter and hold it against your skin. When you release it, the inserter will quickly pierce the skin, placing the small cannula and needle beneath the skin's surface. Remove the needle and complete the prime as directed by your pump instructions.

Wearing the Pump

Once you have the pump connected, you have a few options as to how to wear it. A variety of clips are available so you can attach the pump to your waistband, belt or even your bra. Another option is to place the pump in your pocket. The flexible tubing comes in a few different sizes, which enables you to choose how you carry the pump. There are also belts or straps with pockets. You can wear them on your stomach, back, leg or arm. Even your socks are another option for storage.

Insertion Sites Gone Wrong

Pump wearers usually can attach to the pump with few issues, but some situations do require you to take action. Watch for any signs of infection at the insertion site, such as redness, swelling, or bleeding. If you suspect an infection, remove the pump and contact your physician. If you experience a problem with your pump and are not receiving appropriate insulin delivery, remove the pump and start on insulin, using shots under the supervision of your doctor. If you experience a high glucose reading, remember to check your infusion set and change it as necessary in case of a blockage or bent cannula. Rotating the site is necessary to prevent tissue buildup and other blockages.

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