April 24, 2021

How Does An Insulin Pump Work?

In this article we’ll answer all your insulin pump-related questions, provide safety tips, and break down the types of insulin pumps available.

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Insulin Pump 101

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For those living with insulin-managed diabetes, constant injections can be inconvenient and painful. An insulin pump can be a great tool to manage care, but with any lifesaving tools it’s important to understand how it works. As you research insulin pumps, it’s common to have questions about the basics: how do they work, who can use them and, importantly, what is an insulin pump? With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide explaining the basics of using insulin pumps. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes, or if you’ve been living with diabetes for years but are curious about switching to an insulin pump, read on for our answers to your questions about these devices.

Frequently Asked Questions About Insulin Pumps

What Is An Insulin Pump?

Insulin pumps are small, computer-powered devices that can deliver insulin without injections. With an insulin pump, you’ll get a continuous flow of insulin in a predetermined amount, or the “basal rate.” Additionally, these pumps can deliver larger bolus doses at mealtimes.

Using an insulin pump won’t eliminate your need for regular blood sugar checks. That said, using these devices instead of injections can add convenience to your life. An insulin pump could potentially improve your ability to manage your blood glucose levels, too.

Insulin pumps are about as big as a deck of cards and are worn outside the body. While these pumps are available in various form factors, here’s an image of the wireless Omnipod to give you some idea of what they look like, and what the components are:


Who Can Use Insulin Pumps?

If you have Type I diabetes, your body doesn’t produce insulin – and, as a result, you’ll need to rely on insulin therapy to keep your blood glucose levels in check. Insulin pumps are a quick, easy way to deliver insulin.

On the other hand, some people with Type II diabetes can also benefit from these products. While many patients living with this type of diabetes can often manage their condition with medication and lifestyle changes, that’s not the case for everyone. People with Type II diabetes who need insulin therapy can benefit from insulin pumps in the same way that people with Type I diabetes can.

How Does An Insulin Pump Work?

Both basal and bolus doses of insulin are delivered from an insulin pump through a tube/catheter connected to the pump. That tube is connected to a cannula, which is inserted into the fat layer just under your skin.

Before you start using an insulin pump, you’ll need to know how to operate it. With help from your diabetes care team, you’ll get the training you need on topics like:

  • Filling pump reservoirs
  • Connecting/disconnecting your pump
  • Selecting infusion sites
  • Troubleshooting and making backup plans

Your doctor will help you set up your insulin pump’s basal rate. Depending on what you need, you may have one basal rate setting or different rate settings. For bolus doses, you’ll program the amount of insulin you need on the pump itself. Most pumps simplify this process by providing a bolus calculator, which can help you determine the dose you need based on your blood glucose level and how many carbs you’ll be consuming.

What Are The Main Types Of Insulin Pumps?

Though there are many different insulin pumps on the market today, most of these can be sorted into two categories.

  • Traditional insulin pumps are pumps with an insulin reservoir and pumping mechanism which are connected to the body with tubing and an infusion set. The pump body can be operated with various buttons.
  • Insulin patch pumps are worn directly on the body. These pumps consist of a reservoir, pumping mechanism, and infusion set, all of which are contained within a small case. You’ll control these pumps with a separate device that connects wirelessly to the patch pump.

This is a simplified breakdown of these devices – you’ll want to work with your diabetes care team when selecting the best insulin pump type for you.

How Much Does An Insulin Pump Cost?

Insulin pumps aren’t always covered by insurance companies. In many cases, to get insurance coverage for an insulin pump, your doctor will need to approve it as medically necessary.

If they aren’t covered by insurance, insulin pumps can be costly – you can expect to pay about $6,000 for the device itself. That’s not counting the cost of batteries, sensors, and other supplies, which can run you another $3,000 to $6,000 annually. Finally, you’ll need to pay separately for insulin delivered by a pump!

How Do I Choose An Insulin Pump?

Choosing an insulin pump isn’t something you’ll have to do alone – as we mentioned earlier, your diabetes care team can assist you in this process. Your insurance company may also limit your options for pumps.

However, there are a number of factors you’ll want to keep in mind when selecting an insulin pump:

  • How much insulin the pump can hold
  • The pump’s maximum bolus size
  • Compatibility with other infusion set brands
  • Quality of the pump’s software
  • Whether or not the pump has a bolus calculator
  • Compatibility with glucose meters/CGMs

These considerations and others can help you find an insulin pump that meets your needs.

Are Insulin Pumps Safe?

While it’s easy to be alarmed by stories like the one at the beginning of this article, insulin pumps are generally safe. These devices have been used successfully by patients of all ages, and can serve as a functional replacement for insulin injections.

Of course, if you’re using an insulin pump, it’s crucial to make sure you’re doing so safely. Before starting with an insulin pump, you’ll likely have to check your blood glucose levels at least four times daily. Changes in your glucose levels can let you know if your pump or infusion set isn’t working properly – these issues could eventually lead to diabetes ketoacidosis if they aren’t taken care of.

Your Source For Insulin Pump Delivery

Though you’ll need to check into your insurance coverage situation and take health and safety seriously before using an insulin pump, they can be a great way to handle your insulin delivery needs. Hopefully, the information shared in this article has helped you learn more about these devices.

If you’re in the market for an insulin pump or related supplies, US MED is the perfect place to find one. We offer a wide range of insulin pumps, all of which can be delivered directly to you. When you order insulin supplies from our company, you’ll enjoy perks like free priority shipping and 90 days of supplies in each order – all backed up by our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and our industry-leading scores in customer satisfaction. Check out our full listing of products today!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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