A breakthrough in diabetes management is bringing us one step closer to an artificial pancreas. Medtronic's Minimed 530G has a tiny automatic pump that will stop insulin delivery in diabetes patients when blood sugar levels are too low.
Rachella Nagy of Jennings has tracked her blood sugar for more than 20 years, when she was given what was once a life or death diagnosis of diabetes. "The doctor told me if I took really good care of myself, I would live 20 years and if I didn't take care of myself I might have five to ten years," she said.
Rachella has used every new gadget to help her manage her diabetes, including insulin pumps. "Before I got on the pump, I could take anywhere from 5-13 shots a day," she said.
Those shots are now non-existent thanks to this artificial pancreas technology approved by the FDA in the fall of 2013. Samantha Rider with the Endocrinology Center of Southwest Louisiana explains, "It gives really small doses of insulin around the clock rather than taking a long-acting insulin and expecting it to cover you for 24 hours."
What makes this system artificial pancreas technology is that there is a meter and sensor linked to the pump, telling the pump when blood sugar is too low. When that happens, an alert is set off and if a person does not react to the alert, the pump shuts itself off for two hours. "This is the first time that it's actually responded with an action versus just giving you knowledge to say hey, you're really high or hey you're really low," said Rider.
Rider says the fear of a person becoming unconscious and unable to shut off the insulin is now gone. "If you don't respond to that and you do actually reach that threshold suspend number and it shuts off, it will start to sound a siren alarm that will say this person has diabetes, please contact emergency," she said.
Rachella says all she has to do is input the number of carbohydrates she is eating. "I scroll to 25 and then it would give me that amount of insulin."
The lifestyle change for Rachella has been energy versus fatigue - and peace of mind. "If I want to play tennis, if I want to play baseball, if I want to take a walk around the park," she said, "I can do whatever. Nothing holds me back."
This artificial pancreas technology has been used locally in children and adults. If you can operate a simple cell phone, you can operate this system.