Types of Insulin Pumps: The Basics

The main difference among types of insulin pumps is how they connect to the body. Some require tubes while others do not. Talk with your doctor about which kind of pump will best suit your needs, consult your insurance provider before purchasing, and make sure the buttons and read-outs are user-friendly for you.

Pumps Connected by Tubing or Tethered

Pumps requiring tubing are the most commonly used. Flexible tubing connects a pager-size insulin pump to the individual. The insulin flows from the pump’s reservoir through the tube and into the cannula, the part of the tubing that goes underneath the skin.

The pump is usually hidden by the individual’s clothing. People frequently keep it in a pocket, attached to a belt, or tucked into their bra. The pumps do not prevent individuals from moving about freely, but very active individuals have been known to pull the cannula free from the skin.

Most tethered pumps come with a remote access device, such as a remote control or a special glucose meter, that can wirelessly trigger the pump to deliver a bolus. The pump reservoirs hold from 180 to 300 units.

Tubeless or Untethered Insulin Pumps

Tubeless insulin pumps, often called patch pumps, sit on the skin and are held in place by an adhesive. The pump contains the reservoir and the motor necessary to deliver the insulin. Wireless handheld gadgets that double as glucose meters can program in boluses and basal rates.

The patches are one-half to one-third the size of a computer mouse and getting smaller. Very active individuals often choose patch pumps because there is little or no tubing to pull out. Some tubeless brands are disposable and worn for two or three days, then discarded.

Implanted Insulin Pumps

Implanted pumps are most often used for research purposes. The pump is surgically placed beneath the skin, and the reservoir is refilled using a syringe. It delivers insulin into the space between an individual’s abdominal muscles and the organs.

Closed Loop Insulin Pumps

This type of pump is in the creation process and is not available commercially. Closed-loop systems will have the technology to monitor and manage blood glucose without any decision making required from the user. It will measure blood glucose and provide the proper insulin response.

Source: Insulin Pump Therapy
Photo: Pexels

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