Insulin jets allow you to inject insulin without the use of any kind of needle. However, the complexity and expense of these small devices often cause people to shy away from using them. Most jets require you to load the insulin, sterilize the device, change reusable parts, and troubleshoot any number of problems.
How Does It Work?
Insulin jets typically contain three parts: the delivery device (shaped like a pen), a disposable injector nozzle, and a disposable insulin vial adapter. You load the pen by filling the insulin adapter with insulin. Once loaded, you set the insulin jet to your prescribed insulin dose. The jet injects insulin through your skin by forcing a high-pressured stream of insulin through a very tiny hole at the end of the disposable injector nozzle. This high-pressured stream of insulin penetrates the outer layer of your skin so it can disperse through the lower layers of your skin and into your blood stream.
The tiny opening at the end of the disposable injector nozzle typically measures less than 0.009 inches in diameter, which is much smaller than the typical insulin needle, which measures 0.28 inches in diameter.
Insulin jets use one of two different sources of “power” to pressurize the insulin: either a compressed gas cartridge or a compressed spring. Compressed springs are the most commonly used source of “power” due to the fact that they are lightweight, small, durable, and inexpensive. Compressed gas cartridges typically contain either nitrogen or carbon dioxide. These cartridges can produce more pressure than springs, but have to be replaced more often, cost considerably more, and weigh significantly more.
Are There Any Risks?
The biggest risk to using an insulin jet involves the accuracy of the insulin dose you inject. If you do not properly inject the insulin, some insulin may remain on the surface of your skin and fail to reach your blood stream. When this happens, your body does not get enough insulin to keep your blood sugar within your target range. If this occurs, monitor your blood sugar carefully. Seek medical advice if your blood sugar increases dangerously due to a poorly delivered dose. Dr. Michael Hall, M.D., a family physician at DuBois Regional Medical Center in DuBois, Pennsylvania, also recommends contacting your doctor if you experience more than two or three incomplete injections within a 24-hour period.
Insulin jets also place your pocket book at risk. Compared to the cost of insulin needles or pens, insulin jets have a very high price tag. The insulin jet itself can cost anywhere from $200 to $700 in the United States. You also have to purchase the replacement injector nozzles and insulin adapters. These parts do not need to be replaced as often as needles, but they do need replacing every once in a while. And, unfortunately, many insurance companies refuse to cover the cost of insulin jets.
While insulin jets do not use a needle, they can cause trauma to the skin. People often experience slight bleeding and bruising at the injection site. Some people even complain that the insulin jet hurts more than an injection with a typical insulin needle or pen.
Yet another risk of the insulin jet involves appropriate care of the device. You need to keep your insulin jet in proper working condition to ensure it delivers an accurate amount of insulin. This requires regular sterilization and maintenance protocols. The failure to keep your insulin jet sterilized may result in infections due to the injection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi along with your insulin. If you do not maintain your insulin jet properly you may experience air locks and other technical problems that prevent you from using the device.
Other Conditions Insulin Jets Treat
An insulin jet is designed specifically to deliver insulin. However, other types of jet injectors are used within the field of health care to deliver vaccines.
What the Expert Says
Though the use of insulin injectors have been around since 1979, they have never caught on. Their complexity makes them unreliable for many people with insulin-dependent diabetes. However, if you have an extreme phobia of needles talk to your doctor about the compatibility of an insulin jet with your insulin needs.
Patients that learn how to use an insulin jet accurately may not need to use as much insulin, according to Dr. Hall. An insulin jet allows the insulin to spread out more in the subcutaneous layer of your skin than the typical needle. As a result, the insulin spreads over a larger area of tissue and into your bloodstream faster than a subcutaneous injection from a needle.