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Insulin Pumps Have Been Linked To Injuries And Death In Some Diabetic Teenagers

By KJ Mullins     May 5, 2008 in Health
Teens with Type 1 Diabetes often use Insulin pumps as part of treating the disease but an FDA study shows the device has been linked to injuries and a few deaths.
The FDA is not saying the teens with juvenile diabetes should not be provided the insulin pump that can help make life more manageable. Parents though do need to be keeping a close eye on their children's devices and understand that the machine is not infallible.
Some of the problems with the pumps and teenagers is simply lack of education when a teen wasn't sure on the correct use. Another problem observed was not taking care of the pump or dropping them.
"The FDA takes pediatric deaths seriously," said the agency's Dr. Judith Cope, lead author of the analysis. "Parental oversight and involvement are important. Certainly teenagers don't always consider the consequences."
There were also two possible suicide attempts using the pump to administer too much insulin.
With the proper care the pumps can be a part of normal teen life for diabetes patients. Up to 100,000 teens may already be using the machine that costs about $6,000 with supplies running at $250 a month.
Insulin pumps are used for Type 1 diabetes. Between 5 and 10 percent of all diabetic cases are Type 1 which is also known as juvenile diabetes. Type 2 is the more common form found in adults primary and often linked to obesity.
Up to 24 million people worldwide have the Type 1 version of the disease. Type 1 happens when the body attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. When insulin levels are too high they can cause heart disease, blindness and kidney damage.
The pumps are small, the size of a cell phone, and worn on a belt or carried in a pocket. Through a plastic tube that is inserted under the skin insulin is carried into the body. Users using the device tell the machine how much insulin to give prior to each meal based on the estimated carbs they are eating. There are also devices designed to give a constant low level flow of insulin.
The FDA study appears in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics reporting the adverse effects and deaths associated with the pumps in adolescents between 1996 to 2005. The FDA required that the manufacturers to report any injuries that can be linked to medical devices. The study looked at cases reported from the pump with patients aged from 12 to 21. The reports they reviewed were not always clear as to the cause of death or injury.
Even with the pump patients must check sugar levels although some of the devices cut the number of times with a glucose monitor.
One of the problems that has been observed is a blocked tube that can quickly cause an episode of high blood sugar.
"In a matter of a few hours, all the insulin in the body disappears," said Dr. John Buse, the American Diabetes Association's president for medicine and science. "Metabolically, the child starts to spiral out of control.
"Kids need to be aware of the risk, monitor their blood sugar and be ready to give themselves an insulin injection."
While there are some problems with the pumps they are still a vital part of diabetes treatment giving teens a better chance of a 'normal' life. When used correctly and with monitoring they enable events like pizza nights out with friends that in the past was frowned upon.
More about Insulin pump, Type diabetes, Teenagers