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What Is a Pump

An insulin pump is a medical device, about the size of a cell Wearing an insulin pump and infusion set with type 1 diabetesphone, which infuses insulin through a small cannula (made of metal or flexible “plastic”) inserted into the layer of fat under the skin and held in place by an adhesive pad.

Typical sites for infusion include: the tummy/abdomen, the buttocks, thighs, and upper arm. In some models of insulin pump, the cannula is then connected to a length of plastic tubing, which transports insulin from the pump cartridge/reservoir to the infusion set; another “tubing-free” model eliminates the tubing by housing the cartridge/reservoir in a “pod” with a built-in cannula, which adheres to the skin. Either form of infusion set is replaced every 2-3 days.

A “pump program”, also referred to as Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion (CSII), is an alternative to multiple daily injections via syringes/insulin pens (although injections are still occasionally required when there is a temporary problem with insulin delivery through the pump).

An insulin pump replaces long- or intermediate-acting “basal” insulin with tiny amounts of rapid-acting insulin delivered automatically every few minutes, PLUS, when a user pushes the appropriate buttons, delivers a bolus of rapid-acting insulin to cover each meal and snack. Most pumps also calculate a recommended dose of insulin, based on the rates and ratios a user has previously programmed in. In addition, temporary basal rates can be set to increase or decrease the amount of basal insulin delivered for a specified period of time, and there are options for extended boluses to deal with high fat or low glycemic foods (such as pizza, and pasta, respectively).


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The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.

This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.


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