For those living with diabetes, the introduction of the insulin pump marked a turning point towards a sense of normalcy for some. The device – a computerized system delivering a continuous supply of insulin – mirrors the function of the pancreas by keeping blood glucose levels consistent through meals and at night. This gives patients a higher rate of insulin – called the bolus rate – right before they eat. Roughly about the size of an old pager, it typically passes along 200-units of fast-acting insulin.
The standard pump uses a tube that’s connected to your skin through a cannula, which is then inserted into the subcutaneous layer with a 2-inch needle. Upon adding the device, a medical professional removes the needle and tapes the tube in place. Then, he or she programs the pump to operate at particular rates and cycles.
Yet, between 1996 and 2005, the FDA received nearly 1,600 adverse event reports involving insulin pumps and from 2001 through 2009, that number has increased. While many medical professionals believe the benefits outweigh the risks, patients must consider the following.
1. Taking an Active Role
From advertisements to word of mouth, insulin pumps come with a reputation for passive management. Yet, their usage is not unlike other diabetes management technologies and, to safely use this device, it’s recommended that you:
- Make an effort to check your blood glucose at least four times each day.
- Continue to count carbohydrates.
- Work with a medical professional to regularly adjust its insulin dose, based on your blood glucose levels, carbohydrate intake and activity levels.
Also understand that taking an active role means you can see when the device isn’t working. Patients have found that such regular assessments help with noticing rising glucose levels – a factor indicating the pump isn’t delivering the right amount of insulin.
2. Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
All pumps, as the FDA’s adverse events reports show, come with risks of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). How does this occur? For patients, one of the following may be happening:
- Pump malfunctioning – The pump may not be programmed to administer the correct rate of insulin, per the patient’s specific situation, or the pump may have stopped working entirely. By design, an alarm should sound when this occurs, but in several instances, the pump provides no notification. As a result, patients believe the pump is working, until it’s almost too late.
- Absorption – In certain instances, the medical professional may not have inserted the pump in the right area. As a result, the patient’s body isn’t absorbing the insulin.
- Catheter issues – At some point, the tube and cannula may fall out and the patient stops receiving insulin.
Should this happen, patients may require a multi-day stay in the ICU to have their insulin levels adjusted.
Even when the pump is inserted correctly and administering the appropriate rate and dose of insulin, patients have been known to experience allergic reactions. Particularly, an infection develops at the catheter site, resulting in sores in the present and later creating permanent bumps and scarring.
4. Training and Expense
Using a pump is not always a simple and straightforward process. After a medical professional inserts and programs it, you may need a hospital stay – including a full day in outpatient care – to learn how it works. After you’re trained on what to do and look for, your pump may need additional supplies. Compared to other diabetes monitoring methods, these costs can add up over time and turn into a larger expense.
In 2016, Johnson & Johnson found their Animas OneTouch Ping pump comes with minor hacking risks. An outside party could access the now discontinued pump when standing within a certain distance through its wireless remote capabilities to change the insulin rate or deliver unauthorized injections. The result – a risk now identified for all similar devices – may cause a patient to overdose and experience hypoglycemia.
Even when patients go through the proper training and effectively monitor their care, incidents involving pump malfunctioning continue to happen. If you’ve been using an insulin pump to manage diabetes, only to experience increased glucose or hypoglycemia at near-fatal levels, bring your claim to Trantolo & Trantolo’s lawyers. To learn about what we can do, contact us today.