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Insulin Pump

What is an insulin pump?

An insulin pump is a device that delivers insulin continuously while it is connected. The insulin flows through a thin tube called a catheter that is placed under the skin or attached directly to the skin. It can help keep blood sugar levels in the proper range day and night.

How does the insulin pump work?

The pump delivers insulin doses in different ways:

  • Basal insulin, which is your child’s continuous insulin dose, usually delivered hourly over 24 hours. It keeps blood sugar levels in the proper range between meals and overnight.
  • Extra insulin, called a bolus. A bolus is rapid-acting insulin delivered near mealtime. Bolus (extra) doses can also be used to treat high blood glucose. Your child can push a button on the insulin pump to get more insulin. If your child has high blood sugar before eating, a bolus of insulin can bring the blood sugar back to the proper range.

When your child has an insulin pump, your child’ healthcare provider will tell you how often blood sugar levels need to be tested. It may need to be tested at least 4 times a day. Never ignore a high blood sugar reading.

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.

During sleep, the pump can be worn on a waistband, armband, or leg band.

Insulin pumps are water resistant, but should not be put directly in the water. The pumps have a port that lets you disconnect the pump from the catheter for swimming, bathing, or showering.

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 his blood sugar as often as your healthcare provider recommends, which could be as often as every hour while the pump is disconnected. Blood sugar and ketone levels could go up while your child is not getting insulin. Your child may need a dose of insulin if his blood sugar goes too high before the pump is reconnected.

What are the benefits of an insulin pump?

Some benefits of using an insulin pump are:

  • The pump delivers insulin into the body more accurately than shots and may result in fewer large swings in blood sugar levels.
  • The pump can be used to lower basal insulin during exercise so large amounts of carbohydrate don’t need to be eaten to prevent a low blood sugar.
  • The pump lets your child be more flexible about when and what he 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 needed. It is still important to make good food choices to avoid weight gain.
  • 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:

  • If the catheter accidentally comes out or the tubes get kinked, blood sugar may get high and cause problems. Your child can also get a dangerous buildup of acids in the blood (ketoacidosis) more quickly than if they were using insulin shots. If your child’s blood sugar is unusually high, it’s important to check the pump to make sure it’s working correctly.
  • Insulin pumps can be costly.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-07
Last reviewed: 2015-01-08
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.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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