Questions and Answers about Insulin Pump Therapy at Mayo Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff

What is an insulin pump?

An insulin pump is a device the size of a pager that contains a syringe reservoir filled with insulin. You wear the pump outside your body and a small, flexible tube connects the reservoir of insulin to a catheter that you insert under the skin of your abdomen.

An insulin pump delivers insulin in much the same way as your body does. Your physician helps you determine how much insulin you need, and then you program the insulin pump to release the desired amount of insulin into your body. The pump releases rapid-acting insulin and delivers the insulin in two ways: continuously (basal) and in bursts (bolus), to cover food eaten.

Is insulin pump therapy right for me?

Insulin pumps work well for many people, but they aren't right for everyone. All potential candidates must have good glucose control and the ability to handle the technical and mechanical functions of the pump. Because it releases a constant flow of insulin into the body, the pump is especially popular with people who have an unpredictable activity schedule or work hours.

If you decide to use the pump, it is important to have realistic expectations. Even if you use the pump, you will still need to monitor your glucose levels. You will need to program the pump, refill the syringe with insulin, and change the pump's batteries every one to two weeks. The insulin pump is a tool of diabetes management, and is only as effective as the person using it.

I'm interested in insulin pump therapy. How do I get started?

Before beginning insulin pump therapy, you must be self-monitoring your blood glucose level at least four times per day. You also must attend the three-day Mayo Clinic Diabetes Unit Intensive Diabetes Education and Management Program.

The next step is to meet with a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, as well as your physician. If you, the endocrinologist and your physician agree that you are a candidate for insulin pump therapy, schedule a nurse-assessment appointment. At this appointment, you will learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of pump treatment. You'll also be shown the different features of various pumps, and will learn how to order your insulin pump.

Once you receive your insulin pump, call the Diabetes Clinic to schedule a date to attend an insulin pump class. You will need to have your Mayo Clinic ID number available when you call. You may reach the Diabetes Clinic at 507-284-1920, or leave a message at 507-284-0275.

Can you tell me more about the insulin pump class?

The insulin pump class is held twice each month on W-19C of the Mayo Clinic Building. During the one-day class, you will learn the basic functions and buttons of your specific insulin pump. You'll also begin to learn how to incorporate insulin pump therapy into your daily life.

Specific topics addressed by a certified diabetes nurse educator include:

  • Insulin pump therapy and hypoglycemia
  • Insulin sensitivity factor and correctional bolus
  • Adjustment of basal insulin and bolus insulin
  • Exercise on insulin pump therapy
  • Emergency phone numbers

Specific topics addressed by a registered dietitian include:

  • Carbohydrate counting
  • Insulin to carbohydrate ratios

How will I know if I'm on track with my insulin pump?

Once you complete the class, the nurse educator will schedule follow-up telephone calls to help monitor your use of the pump.

In addition, follow-up visits with the endocrinologist, nurse educator and dietitian will take place at the following intervals:

  • 2-4 weeks
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months

Will insurance cover the cost of the pump and the class?

Insurance coverage is based on each individual's carrier.