What is an Insulin Pump?

An insulin pump is a small electronic device, used to deliver insulin continuously to the pump wearer. insulin pump therapy very discreet and the device easily carried on a belt, inside a pocket, or attached to a bra/other clothing and so is virtually invisible to others. The device is attached to your body via a thin tube called an Infusion Set or a “pod” (depending on model).. An insulin pump replaces the need for frequent injections by delivering rapid acting insulin continuously 24 hours a day.

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Images: A comparison of an early insulin pump from the 1960’s and those available today -thankfully devices are now much more discreet portable and have advanced technology. (Picture Source www.medscape.com & stock)

An insulin pump delivers quick acting insulin every few minutes in tiny amounts, 24 hours a day. The insulin flows through a cannula which sits in the subcutaneous tissue (where you would normally inject insulin) and is changed by the pump user every 2-3 days.

Insulin Pump therapy delivers quick acting insulin in two ways: -

**Only rapid-acting insulin is delivered from an insulin pump which provides all your insulin requirements.**

Insulin pumps reduce the need for multiple injections and give the user the ability to make smaller, more accurate adjustments to insulin delivery. 

Meet Marion and Stuart: both have Type 1 Diabetes and both use an insulin pump. They explain how it works and why they wouldn't give it up for anything! They're not for everyone, but if you've ever considered one, this is the film for you.  This film was one of many commissioned by NHS Wales and were created by Pocket Medic. 


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You can find out more about Pocket Medic (e-digital health) and view some other Insulin pump related films created on our  Pocket Medic Video page .

At present insulin pumps do not operate as a completely automated delivery system and a high level of user input is required for successful “pumping”. Some devices can measure glucose levels by relaying the signal from a separate glucose sensor but at this time most /all treatment decisions require user input (e.g. boluses for meals, correcting high blood glucose etc.)

There is lots of work underway all over the world to develop/create a completely automated system (we call it “closing the loop” or development of an “artificial” pancreas!) but as of yet we don’t have this technology – the technology that current insulin pump devices offer here in the UK is at the cutting edge of available diabetes treatments.


So now you know a little bit more about what an insulin pump is why not check out our frequently asked questions (FAQs) to see if insulin pump therapy might be a treatment option for you here.