Insulin Pumps


Managing diabetes with an insulin pump, rather than multiple daily injections, is a major decision that cannot be taken without expert advice from your health professionals.

This brief overview does not pretend to offer advice whether a pump would suit you, or which pump would be right for you.

It provides a brief description of what a pump is and suggests some things to discuss with your healthcare professional.

There are two funded pumps in New Zealand for those who fulfil the criteria set by Pharmac (The Pharmaceutical Management Agency). It is best to discuss with your healthcare professional whether in fact you do qualify for a funded pump.

They both weigh around 100 grams and are about the same size, smaller but a little thicker, than an iPod!

They are worn externally either on a belt clip or some other form of soft or hard holster. Insulin is delivered through fine plastic tubing (an infusion set) which in turn is connected to a fine cannula (or plastic needle) that is secured under your skin. The cannula must be changed every 2 – 3 days and the location rotated each time.

To keep sites healthy, some people find it helpful to use a visual scheme to help them rotate their insertion sites in an organized way. For example, here are two commonly used methods. For maximum effectiveness, use both methods, alternating between them:

Visualize an imaginary clock drawn on your abdomen surrounding your belly button. Rotate infusion set insertion sites by starting at 12 o’clock and then rotate the site clockwise to 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and so on. You can use this method of rotating sites if you are using syringes or insulin pens as well.


Imagine a letter M or a letter W on either side of your belly button. Start at the end of one letter and proceed through the letter, rotating to each intersection in turn.

Pumps do not take standard 3 ml vials of insulin. A rechargeable reservoir is filled from a 3 or 10ml insulin vial.

Depending on personal insulin use and lifestyle (and the fact that insulin deteriorates at “body temperature”) the reservoir will require refilling every two to three days. Like insulin syringes and pen needles insulin reservoirs are labelled as “single use”. Many users however obtain three or four refills before replacement.

Pumps are battery powered or charged via µUSB cable provided and can be programmed to deliver a stream of rapid acting insulin in frequent tiny doses throughout the day and night. Additional “Bolus” doses can be delivered at meal times.

Pumps are generally waterproof. The Tandem t:slim X2TM can however tolerate less depth and time in water compared with the Medtronic MiniMed® 640G.

Tandem t:slim X2TM Read more here

Medtronic MiniMed® 640G Read more here