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Insulin Pump

What is an insulin pump?

An insulin pump is a device that delivers insulin 24 hours a day through a thin tube called a catheter that is placed under the skin. It can help your child manage his or her diabetes by helping your child keep blood sugar levels within the target range. People of all ages with diabetes use insulin pumps.

How does the insulin pump work?

The pump delivers different types of insulin doses:

  • Basal insulin
  • Bolus doses to cover carbohydrate in meals
  • Bolus doses to treat high blood glucose

Basal insulin is delivered continuously over 24 hours. It keeps blood glucose levels in the proper range between meals and overnight. If needed, you can program the pump to deliver different amounts of insulin for different times of the day and night.

When your child eats, pushing a button on the insulin pump can give more insulin. This is called a bolus. A bolus is insulin that can be delivered on demand to match the carbohydrate in a meal or snack. If your child eats more than planned, simply program a larger bolus of insulin to cover it.

A bolus can also be used to treat high blood sugar levels. If your child has high blood sugar before eating, a bolus of insulin can bring the blood sugar back to your child's target range.

How is it worn?

An insulin pump can be worn in a pump case or it can be attached to a waistband, pocket, bra, sock, or underwear. You can tuck any excess tubing into the waistband of underwear or pants.

When your child sleeps, the pump can be worn on a waistband, armband, or leg band, or it can be clipped to a blanket, stuffed toy, or pillow.

Insulin pumps are water resistant, but they should not be put directly in the water. The pumps have a disconnect port for activities, such as swimming, bathing, or showering. This allows you or your child to disconnect the pump from the catheter during such activities.

Your child can still have fun when using an insulin pump. While exercising or playing, your child can wear an armband or an elastic waistband with a pump case. In some cases your child may not be allowed to wear any devices because falling on the pump could hurt your child. In this case, your child may need to take the insulin pump off during an activity. Make sure that your child understands that he or she must not go longer than 1 to 2 hours without any insulin. Your child should check blood sugar every 2 to 3 hours while the pump is disconnected because the blood sugars and ketone levels could go up while your child is not getting insulin.

What are the benefits of an insulin pump?

Some benefits of using an insulin pump are:

  • The pump delivers insulin more accurately than shots and may result in fewer large swings in blood sugar levels.
  • The pump lets your child lower basal insulin during exercise instead of having to eat large amounts of carbohydrate to prevent a low blood sugar.
  • The pump lets your child be more flexible about when and what he or she eats. Meal boluses may be changed based on the foods your child chooses to eat. This allows your child to eat when hungry, have more food choices, or delay a meal if necessary.
  • Using an insulin pump means your child doesn’t have to keep getting insulin shots.

What are the disadvantages of an insulin pump?

The disadvantages of an insulin pump are:

  • Pumps may cause weight gain if the added flexibility in food choices and timing of meals causes your child to eat more calories and need more insulin. Good nutrition is the key to avoiding weight gain and keeping good control of blood sugar. Your healthcare team can help you and your child design a balanced but flexible eating plan that includes his or her favorite foods.
  • Your child may have problems from high blood sugar if the catheter comes out and your child doesn't get insulin for hours.
  • Insulin pumps can be costly.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-03-20
Last reviewed: 2013-02-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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