If you are considering a pump with tubing, you may know that you will be required to wear an infusion set, but have little idea of what these are or what your role is in their proper operation. The infusion set is the connection point between your body and the pump tubing; it is the point of entry for the insulin into the fatty tissue under the skin.
This small plastic connector houses a catheter that is treaded under your skin with the help of a needle. Once the catheter is in place the needle is withdrawn and the adhesive is pressed to the body to create a seal. (Some infusion sets have only a steel needle that remains under the skin and delivers the insulin) The pump tubing can be disconnected from the infusion set any time you wish to remove the pump, for example, when you take a shower or play a contact sport.
All the pump companies make infusion sets that work with their pumps. Some pumps will work with any company’s infusion sets while other pumps have a proprietary policy, requiring you to use their sets. There are third party companies that sell conversion sets that allow you to use any infusion set with any pump.
Infusion sets are generally of two types: those that are applied at a 90 degree angle and those that pierce the skin at a 30 degree angle. In general, which one you choose is a matter of personal preference, although those people who are muscular with limited body fat tend to do better with the angled sets.
In addition to selecting the mode of entry you can also select your tubing length. Straight sets come in 24-, 31- and 42-inch tubing, while the angled versions are available with tubing in 23-, 31- and 43- inch lengths.
The infusion sets can be placed manually or by infusion applicator. The infusion applicators work well for those who do not care to see the needle enter the skin.
But no matter what set you get, you need to change it every 3 days. Leaving infusion sets in longer can lead to infections and loss of insulin power. Patients who leave their sets in longer often see higher blood glucose readings as the days go on.
To get the most out of your sets, follow the recommendations below.
- Change your infusion set every 2-3 days as recommended.
- Wash your hands, as well as the new site before changing your infusion set. An ideal time for a set change is after a shower in the morning.
- Cleanse the skin well before inserting the infusion set. Some people may need to use an antiseptic solution such as Hibiclens™ or Betadinet.
- Rotate the infusion site at each change to prevent overuse of an area. Overusing an area can lead to interference with insulin absorption. Your new site should be at least 1-inch away from the last site.
- Avoid your waistline, belt and underwear line: any area where clothing would rub or compress.
- Be sure that the site is easily seen so that it can be checked as needed.
- Look for signs and symptoms of infection: redness, warmth, fever, swelling, drainage, high blood glucose, and abscess formation, discomfort.
- For any of the above symptoms immediately change the infusion set and site.
Following good pump hygiene is important in becoming a successful pumper.