How do I choose the right insulin pump?

The world of insulin pumps continues to evolve, which is great news for us living with diabetes. But that constant evolution can make it hard to know what to look for when considering which pump to choose. In this quick post, I'll help you make sense of a couple very important things that you may not considered.

It's important to know that you have a choice when shopping for a pump. There are a number of pumps on the market, and you should evaluate each of them to see which one fits you and your lifestyle best.

Choosing an insulin pump: where to start?

Your doctor and care team need to be on board with the decision to investigate pumping, and they'll often be the first place to start. Above and beyond that, each pump company has a large group of sales reps and clinicians that are happy to meet with you and help you learn more about their pump. They are often very knowledgeable about pump therapy in general, and can help you understand how pumping might help you with your diabetes management. Take advantage of this education.

Keep the following in mind when starting to shop for an insulin pump.

Some health insurance companies have preferred pumps, and that may force your hand from a financial standpoint.

  1. Each pump company can evaluate your insurance coverage, specific to their pump, at no cost or obligation. Take advantage of this service. They'll be able to tell you what your out of pocket expense will be, both for the initial pump purchase and for the ongoing supplies.
  2. If you don't have insurance, most pump companies offer a slight discount for cash purchases.

What to consider when choosing an insulin pump

There are two important things to consider when choosing an insulin pump: its insulin capacity and maximum meal bolus.

Insulin Capacity. You should choose a pump that can hold about three days worth of insulin. Three days is the typical lifespan of an infusion set (the part that connects to you), and it's common to change it and your insulin cartridge/reservoir all at the same time.

You also want to have a little extra 'wiggle room' in there. You never know when you'll need to use some extra insulin, whether that's for troubleshooting something, dealing with a stubborn high blood sugar, or just splurging on a few extra carbs that day. Running out of insulin before you intended to will throw a major monkey wrench into your plans.

Here is the insulin capacity for three insulin pumps available today.

  • Animas OneTouch Ping. Can hold 200 units
  • Medtronic Paradigm Revel. Can hold 300 units
  • OmniPod. Can hold 200 units

Note: You do not have to fill any of these to capacity. Fill them enough to get you through about three days (and a little extra).

Maximum Meal Bolus. For those that use a lot of insulin, you want to be sure that your pump can accommodate your insulin delivery needs. Each pump has a limit on how much insulin it can deliver in a single bolus (that would be how much you might take for a single meal). If you often require more than this limit, this fancy new tool will quickly become a pain in the butt.

Here are the bolus limits for three insulin pumps on the market today.

  • OmniPod Bolus Limit. 30 Units
  • Medtronic Paradigm Revel. 25 Units
  • Animas OneTouch Ping. 35 Units

Insulin pumps are not for everyone

You have to do what works best for you. There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that you're not doing well enough unless you're using an insulin pump. Don't listen to them. If you're doing fine on shots, there is no reason to change. In the end, a pump is just another way to deliver insulin.

That being said, a pump can help you solve particular problems or trouble spots in your management. Pump therapy is worth learning more about. Knowledge will help you make an educated decision that is right for you. I could go on and on about many of these topics, and I hope to do so in future posts. If you have any specific questions, please let us know and I'll do my best to answer them.

About Scott K Johnson

Scott was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1980. Since 2004, he has been writing about his successes and struggles with diabetes. Connect with Scott on The Diabetes Collective and on Twitter.


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