What You Should Know About Insulin Pumps

Are you considering an insulin pump? Find out how these handheld devices work, the features they offer, and how to choose from what's on the market.


Insulin pump therapy has come a long way since the first backpack-size pump became available in 1974. Today's pumps are much smaller -- more like a cell phone or pager -- and easier to use. Check out whether this generation of "smart pumps" will give you the flexibility you are looking for.

How the Pumps Work

These battery-operated devices are designed to mimic a properly functioning pancreas -- secreting insulin whether or not you're eating. Pumps use rapid-acting insulin and deliver constant amounts of insulin every few minutes -- the basal dose. This insulin covers the rise of blood glucose between meals. To compensate for mealtime blood glucose rise, you require a larger burst of insulin -- bolus doses. You'll make decisions before you eat about how much bolus insulin to program in and whether you want it all immediately or over the next few hours. Most pumps will help you make the dose determination based on your meal and your current blood glucose. Correction dosing, a form of bolus dosing, can also bring down high blood glucose levels and reverse correction dosing, used when taking mealtime boluses, can help compensate for low blood glucose.