Islets of Hope treatment options for persons with diabetes

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Information compiled and edited by Lahle Wolfe. Source:

Insulin Delivery  Information Links

Comparison of Insulin Pump and Pen

Medscape Insulin Pump Resource Center









insulin pen

NovoFine Insulin Pen













insulin jet injector

An insulin jet injector
Medi-Jector VisionªNeedle-Free Insulin Injection System

Diabetic jet injectors may cause bruising at the injection site on some people.  Injectors come with cleaning instructions to maintain sterile conditions for all diabetic insulin injections.






Animas Insulin Pump in Use


insulin inhaler
An insulin inhaler



islets of hope diabetes medical library                                  main Treatment Options page
Diabetes treatment - devices

Various insulin delivery devices available

Mini Site Index
Insulin Pens
Insulin Jet Injectors
Subcutaneous Infusion Sets
Insulin Infusion Pumps
Inhaled Insulin
Delivery Devices Under Development

Alternative insulin delivery devices

Many people who take insulin to manage their diabetes inject the insulin with a needle and syringe that delivers insulin just under the skin. Several other devices for taking insulin are available, and new approaches are under development. For more information about insulin, see "Types of Insulin".

Injection aids are devices that help users give injections with needles and syringes through the use of spring-loaded syringe holders or stabilizing guides. Many of these aids use push-button systems to administer the injection.  

Insulin pens
Also, see "Insulin Pens"

Insulin pens can be helpful if you want the convenience of carrying insulin with you in a discreet way. An insulin pen looks like a pen with a cartridge. Some of these devices use replaceable cartridges of insulin; other pen models are totally disposable. A short, fine needle, similar to the needle on an insulin syringe, is on the tip of the pen. Users turn a dial to select the desired dose of insulin and press a plunger on the end to deliver the insulin just under the skin.  Insulin pens, like pumps, are a valuable tool for those who are on intensive (flexible) insulin therapy.

One significant advantage of pens is their ease of use. To use a pen:

  • Screw on a new needle
  • If necessary, prime the pen to remove any air from the pen
  • Turn the knob on the end of the pen (or "dial") to the number of units
  • Inject the needle
  • Press the button on the end of the pen
  • Count to five
  • Remove

A number of companies make insulin pens including Novo Nordisk, Aventis and Eli Lilly. These companies produce pens for most their insulins, including humalog (also known as insulin lispro) and lantus. However, there are really only two different types of systems: replaceable cartridge and prefilled.

A replaceable cartridge pens reuses the pen portion. When the insulin is empty, the vial is simply replaced by inserting a new one.

A prefilled pen is entirely disposable. When the insulin is gone, the entire unit is discarded.


Insulin pens have a number of advantages:

  • More convenient than traditional vial and syringe
  • Repeatedly more accurate dosages
  • Easier to use for those with visual or fine motor skills impairments.

Unlike the traditional syringe, pens are usually restricted to full or half unit dosing. In addition, insurance coverage for insulin pens in the United States may vary widely.  


Jet injectors

A jet injector is a type of syringe that uses pressure instead of a needle to penetrate the epidermis. The original prototype, known as the peace gun, was invented in the 1940s by Dr. Robert Andrew Hingson. They are used primarily by diabetics to inject insulin as an alternative to needle syringes, though they are still not very common.

Insulin jet injectors send a fine spray of insulin through the skin by a high-pressure air mechanism instead of using a needle.  While this may sound painless, it is not.  You should definitely try one out before making a purchase.  Downsides of jet injectors include:

  • Bruising from the force of the spray breaking the skin
  • Most people report more pain with injectors than with a syringe
  • It is time consuming to prepare and clean the injector (some newer models have disposable injection chambers but they are expensive(
  • They are rarely covered by health insurance


Subcutaneous Infusions Sets

Subcutaneous infusion sets, also called insulin infusers, provide an alternative to injections. A catheter (a flexible hollow tube) is inserted into the tissue just beneath the skin and remains in place for several days. Insulin is then injected into the infuser instead of through the skin.  


Insulin infusion pumps
Also, see "Insulin Pump Therapy"

External insulin pumps are devices that deliver insulin through narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin near the abdomen. The insulin pump is about the size of a deck of cards, weighs about 3 ounces, and can be worn on a belt or carried in a pocket. Users set the pump to give a steady trickle or "basal" amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Pumps release "bolus" doses of insulin (several units at a time) at meals and at times when blood glucose is too high based on the programming set entered by the user. They also can be programmed to release smaller amounts of insulin throughout the day. Frequent blood glucose monitoring is essential to determine insulin dosages and to ensure that insulin is delivered.  Insulin pumps, like pens, are a valuable tool for those who are on intensive (flexible) insulin therapy.

Also, see "Insulin Pump Therapy and "Types of Insulin Pumps."  


Inhaled insulin

The inhaled insulin delivery system provides insulin as a spray or a dry powder inhaled through the mouth directly into the lungs where it passes into the bloodstream. Researchers also are investigating systems for delivering insulin intranasally (as a nose spray). Although serious side effects have not occurred during studies, more research is needed to examine the long-term safety of both inhaled and intranasal insulin treatments, especially for pediatric use.  Inhaled insulin received FDA approval in January of 2006.  

Inhaled insulin works similar to an asthma inhaler (but the delivery device is much bigger).  It is a dry powered form of insulin that passes into the blood stream when inhaled into the lungs.  Because only 8-12% of the insulin can be absorbed this way, you need to take more and that increases the cost (it is currently a very expensive method of delivery that may not be covered by insurance).

If you have asthma, a cold, allergies or other respiratory problems, absorption is uneven making inhaled insulin an undesirable choice of treatment for many, especially for pediatric use where children frequently have colds and may not be able to consistently sense hypoglycemia.


Approaches under development

Implantable insulin pumps are surgically implanted under the skin of the abdomen. The pump delivers small amounts of insulin throughout the day and extra amounts before meals or snacks. Users can control doses with a remote control unit that prompts the pump to give the specified amount of insulin. The pump is refilled with insulin every two to three months.

The insulin patch, placed on the skin, provides a continuous low dose of insulin. Because it's difficult to overcome the skin's barriers, delivery of insulin through the skin is aided with sound waves or electrical current.

Insulin pills provide insulin in tablet form. Researchers are working on ways to get the insulin into the bloodstream before it is changed by normal digestive processes.

A buccal spray delivers liquid insulin into the mouth. Insulin is then absorbed through the tongue, the throat, and the inside of the cheeks.

An artificial pancreas, a surgically implanted device, imitates the action of the pancreas by sensing blood glucose levels and secreting insulin in response. The user also can release insulin using a remote control.

For more information on insulin therapy see:

Types of Insulin
Shot Therapy
Intensive (Flexible) Insulin Therapy
Insulin Pump Therapy



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Page Updated 03/11/2006