Last Modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 9:59 AM
Diabetes patients will soon have a new alternative in insulin pump therapy to help alleviate a common fear — having a low blood sugar episode while asleep.
The pump will be able to continuously monitor blood sugar levels and automatically shut down during emergencies. Endocrinologist Dr. Tim Gilbert said the pump is a big step forward in diabetes treatment.
“The hurdle has always been hypoglycemia, or low blood sugars,” Gilbert said.
“Numerous studies show the lower we can get blood sugar, the less complications patients have in terms of eye damage, kidney disease and amputations. The problem became the lower we got their blood sugars, the more hypoglycemia attacks they had.”
Such attacks can cause seizures and lead to coma and even death, he said. The new pump technology will help lessen the severity of those attacks and make them less frequent by monitoring blood sugar and shutting down the delivery of insulin, Gilbert said.
“The new pump, the Medtronic 530G, falls into a new FDA class called artificial pancreas technology,” he said. “What this now allows is for us to put a patient on an insulin pump with this continuous sensor, and then set low thresholds, so when the pump senses that the patient is below 70, the pump will automatically suspend insulin delivery for two hours.”
The device will sound an alarm, and if the patient doesn’t respond, the system will shut off the insulin, he said.
The new pump, which cuts nighttime hypoglycemia incidence rates by 37.5 percent, will help give patients peace of mind, Gilbert said.
“You talk to any diabetic on insulin, and their number one fear is going low in the middle of the night, going low when no one can find them,” he said. “This pump will continue to siren after it shuts down and will flash ‘I have diabetes. Please call for emergency assistance.’ ”
Gilbert said the pump, which can be used by patients age 16 and older, will benefit Type 1 and Type 2 patients who were on three or more shots per day. They will be shipped out in the next four to six weeks. He said the pumps will make life less stressful.
“I want a patient to live with diabetes, not for diabetes. If you are living for diabetes, you are miserable,” Gilbert said.
“If you are living for that next shot and are worried about having to eat right at noon because you are going to go low, with the pumps, it allows you to live like you don’t have diabetes to a degree.”