My plan is to go through life with two things at my side: My wife (‘til death do us part…) and my insulin pump, at least until there’s a cure for diabetes.
Choosing my wife was easy — she was the only woman who was willing to put up with me. Choosing an insulin pump was not nearly as simple. How could I possibly tell which features were important and which were just a bunch of sales fluff? And when I picked out my first pump 12 years ago, there were only two pumps to choose from. Today, there are seven different companies producing a variety of pump models (and one producing a disposable “patch pump”), and more are on the way!
I’m lucky enough to work in a field that allows me to sample just about everything that comes down the research pipeline, so I’ve had a chance to wear every kind of pump out there. And you know what? There is no single pump that is best for everyone. Whether you’re looking to start pump therapy for the first time or are due for an upgrade, selecting the best pump for you is very important. Anything less can impair your ability to achieve the best possible blood glucose control and may create unnecessary costs and inconvenience. So it pays to shop before you buy.
Do your research
Once you purchase a pump, plan to be “connected at the hip” for the next four years or longer. That’s how long the warranty lasts on most pumps, and insurance companies rarely pay for a new one until the warranty on the old one expires.
So before turning over insurance or payment information to any pump company representative, make sure you’ve done your homework. Contact each pump company and examine the various pumps carefully. (Click here for a list of pump companies.) Review the technical specifications for each. Check out reviews and comparisons made at some of the more reputable Web sites (For links to these reviews, click here.)
In addition, several diabetes magazines, including Diabetes Forecast, Diabetes Health, and Diabetes Positive run objective pump comparisons on an annual or semiannual basis.
Some pump companies (and company reps) will allow you to borrow a pump and wear it with a saline solution in it as a trial run. Take advantage of these opportunities! And try not to be swayed by fancy brochures, flashy videos, or smooth-talking salespeople. I would also be skeptical about comments made by other pump wearers that you meet or come across on the Internet. Very few people have an opportunity to try multiple insulin pumps, so their opinions are usually based on exposure to only one pump type.
And what if you find that you made the wrong choice after the pump has been paid for? Most pump companies offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. Ask your pump company representatives for specifics.
All insulin pumps have certain core features in common. All are small, battery-operated devices that deliver both basal insulin (a slow, steady infusion of insulin throughout the day and night) and bolus (mealtime) insulin doses into your body by way of an infusion set — a stainless steel or flexible Teflon tube called a cannula that is placed just below the skin. In most cases, the infusion set connects to the pump by way of a thin (yet strong) strand of plastic tubing. Rapid-acting insulin analogs (aspart [brand name NovoLog], lispro [Humalog], glulisine [Apidra]) are preferred for use in pumps. Here are some of the other features that all insulin pumps have in common: