How Does An Insulin Pump Work?

How to access Insulin Pumps?

Are you interested in accessing insulin pumps for yourself, upgrading your current pump or assessing whether one may fit your current care plan? Find out how London Diabetes can support you by clicking here.

What is an insulin pump?

Insulin pumps are battery-powered devices that deliver insulin into your body twenty-four hours a day. Insulin pumps can more closely replicate the pancreas’s natural insulin release, helping to stabilise your blood glucose levels, protect your health and improve your quality of life.

How does an insulin pump work?

Insulin pumps work by using battery power to pump small amounts of insulin into the body. The insulin is introduced under the skin through a fine tube called a cannula.

The insulin is pumped from a storage reservoir filled with fast-acting insulin. The pump supplies a steady stream of basal or background insulin throughout the day and night. In addition, you can add boluses of insulin when you eat a meal or snack. You can calculate the precise amount of insulin needed by counting the carbohydrates in your food and drinks.

An insulin pump allows you to tailor your insulin supply to your meals, exercise and lifestyle. You can programme the device ( either directly or using a controller or smartphone app, depending on the type of pump) to deliver the correct insulin level for your needs. Many people living with diabetes have to stick to a strict schedule to control their blood sugar levels. A pump gives you the freedom to be spontaneous; if you want a snack, you can have one; there’s no need for an extra injection. You just count the carbs and simply add an insulin bolus through the pump.

An insulin pump mimics your body’s natural pattern of insulin release. You should have more stable blood glucose levels, fewer hypos and hypers and a lower HbA1c. Ultimately, a pump can help reduce the long and short-term complications of diabetes and help you live well with your condition.

Types of insulin pumps

Insulin pump technology is evolving. There’s a range of models available, and companies are currently researching and developing innovative systems, including implanted pumps and artificial pancreases. Type of pumps include:

  • Tethered pumps: Tethered pumps connect to your body through a narrow tube and cannula, known as an infusion set. You carry the pump, attached to the tube, in a bum-bag, pocket or bag.
  • Patch pumps: Patch pumps directly attach to your skin without a tube. They deliver insulin from the reservoir to your body through a fine cannula. You control them using a separate controller or a smartphone app.
  • Insulin pumps with integrated CGMs: Some tethered or patch pumps can communicate with a continuous glucose monitor.
  • Closed-loop systems: These innovative systems are also known as an artificial pancreas. They combine pump and CGM technology with an app that automatically adjusts the insulin dose according to your glucose readings, reacting to prevent hypoglycaemia and to limit glucose rises.
  • Implanted insulin pump (IIP): IIPs are the latest pump technology. They are implanted into the abdomen and refilled in a specialist unit. Currently, IIP implantation and refilling is only available in Montpellier in France.

How to choose an insulin pump

Choosing the right pump can seem overwhelming- but your diabetes team can guide you to the pump that suits your diabetes, lifestyle and budget. Things to consider include:

  • Would you prefer a patch pump attached to your body or a tethered pump?
  • How important are the pump’s size, appearance, and visibility to you?
  • What tube and cannula design would you prefer?
  • What size of insulin reservoir do you need? If you have high insulin requirements, you should choose a pump with a larger reservoir.
  • If you are sensitive to insulin or choosing a device for a child, look for a pump that can administer small doses of insulin.
  • Does your lifestyle mean you need a device with long battery life?
  • Can you get an NHS pump, or will medical insurance cover the cost?
  • If you are purchasing a private pump, what is your budget?
  • How is the pump programmed? Consider whether the controller or smartphone app is easy for you to understand, see and use.
  • Do you want your pump to integrate with your continuous glucose monitor or CGM?
  • If you enjoy sports, will the pump be stable, comfortable and usable during activity? If you’re a swimmer, consider a waterproof device.

Advantages of insulin pumps

Insulin pumps have many advantages over traditional insulin injections. Studies have shown that pumps allow better blood glucose control, prevent diabetes complications and improve quality of life. Insulin pump advantages include:

  • Better diabetes control, more stable blood sugars and a lower HbA1C
  • Greater flexibility around meals, snacks and exercise
  • People using insulin pumps have fewer hypos and less than half the admissions for the serious complication of diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA
  • Protection from the long term complications of diabetes
  • Most pumps are small and discreet
  • Fewer injections, it’s easy to add a bolus of insulin at mealtimes through the pump
  • Simpler insulin regime -you only need rapid-acting insulin in the reservoir
  • Greater wellbeing and quality of life
  • Precise insulin delivery – you can deliver smaller doses of insulin safely and accurately



Looking to speak with a member of our team?

Carol Willis

Carol Willis - Diabetes Clinic Facilitator

If you couldn’t find what you were looking for today, feel free to give us a call at 0800 048 3330 and ask Carol and her team. Alternatively, just fill in this form and someone will get in touch with you promptly. By using this form, you are consenting to the storage and handling of the data contained in the form by our team.