Most pumps (except for the OmniPod, which is tubing-free) use an infusion set to move insulin from the pump into your body. The devices are uncomplicated: Plastic tubing connects to your pump, snakes its way to your body, and connects via a sticky patch that holds a short, plastic tube called a cannula under your skin. While all infusion sets are more or less the same, there are a few differences you should keep in mind.
It sounds complex, but the term simply describes the type of connection between an infusion set and a pump. Most pumps use this type of lock to hold the tubing in place and prevent insulin leaks. If your pump uses a Luer-lock connector, you can use any infusion set you like. Many people stick with a brand that’s made by their pump manufacturer, but others choose cheaper brands that aren’t associated with an insulin pump. MiniMed’s Paradigm and Sooil’s Diabecare IIS pumps don’t connect to Luer-lock infusion sets, but use their own sets instead. Paradigm users who want to choose from a wider range of infusion sets can get a reservoir (from the company Fifty50 Medical) that fits into the Paradigm pump and makes it compatible with
all Luer-lock connectors.
Infusion sets transport insulin to your body with the help of either a flexible plastic cannula or a small steel needle, and your choice is a matter of personal preference. (Very few people use a needle that’s left under the skin.) Your size and level of activity will help you determine other factors like the cannula or needle’s length, angle, and gauge. For instance, a thin person who has little fatty tissue might pick a short cannula, while someone larger may need a longer one.
You can insert your infusion set manually, by sliding the needle or cannula (with the help of a removable needle) under your skin. Many infusion sets use insertion devices that, with the press of a button, place the needle or cannula under your skin and attach the adhesive.
There will come a time when you’ll need to take off your pump—if you go for a swim, for example, or play a rough game of football. (Note: Some pumps allow you to swim and bathe while connected.) Instead of removing your entire infusion set, you can briefly disconnect the pump and tubing. For most infusion sets, you’ll detach the tubing directly at your infusion site, leaving the cannula under your skin and the adhesive in place. Other infusion sets allow users to disconnect a few inches away from the infusion site; a short trail of tubing remains attached to the adhesive. People with shaky hands or visual impairment benefit most from this type of disconnect since it reduces the chance of pulling at the adhesive and dislodging the cannula.
Most infusion sets offer a range of tubing options. Your height and infusion site location will determine the tubing length that is right for you.