What is an Insulin Pump?
An insulin pump is a device that holds insulin in a small cartridge similar to a pen, but instead of a person injecting it each time she needs it, this little cartridge of insulin sits in a device about the size of a pager. The pager device holding the insulin has a small tube connected that goes into the skin and allows the insulin to drip into the body on a continuous basis. Large amounts of insulin may also be delivered at mealtime. So it, in a sense, gives an all-day long shot and mealtime shots with just a single insertion of the small tube about every second or third day.
Insulin pumps deliver a basal rate. The term “basal rate” refers to a continuous drip of insulin that is provided over the course of the day. The amount of insulin delivered is determined the physician and effectively takes the place of a long-acting insulin.
A “bolus” is a sudden burst or a large amount of insulin given at one time to cover a meal or it can also be given as a correction dose to lower a blood sugar. The type of insulin in an insulin pump is a rapid-acting insulin, and when given continuously, provides a very constant level of blood sugar, but when given as a sudden burst, it acts just like a mealtime shot, increasing in a few moments, peaking at one hour, and wearing off in about four to five hours.
One of the biggest drawbacks of an insulin pump is that they can be expensive. The cost of an insulin pump can reach $5000 or $6000. There are also some monthly expenses, related to supplies which can cost somewhere between $100 to $150. Much of this is, of course, can be offset by insurance. Some insurance companies will cover all of the expenses. Some cover 80 percent, but each individual needs to find out what his healthcare coverage allows for.
The pump injection site is usually in the abdomen, either in the front or in the back area. There are some people who will use the back of their arm, although this is not a common site for most pump users. There are people who also have successfully used the thighs. However, the abdomen is really the preferred area for the insulin pump itself to be connected to the skin. The pump device, depending on the brand, can either be attached to the skin directly or sit on the clothing, either on the belt or on the bra. Pumps can even be placed in a pocket under certain circumstances for discretion.