Insulin jet injectors can allow people with diabetes to inject insulin without using a needle. However, many people shy away from these small devices because they can be expensive and complex to use. Read on to learn how they work and their pros and cons.
Insulin jet injectors typically contain three parts:
- the delivery device (shaped like a pen)
- a disposable injector nozzle
- a disposable insulin vial adapter
The tiny opening at the end of the disposable injector nozzle usually measures less than 0.009 inches in diameter. This is the same measurement as the 32-gauge needle used in current insulin syringes.
How you use it
You load the pen by filling the insulin adapter with insulin. Once the device is loaded, you set the gauge to your prescribed insulin dose. Then, you place the device against your skin, typically in an area with some fatty tissue. A good spot could be your stomach, the front or side of your thigh, or the upper, outer section of your buttocks.
When you press the button, the jet forces a high-pressure stream of insulin through the very tiny hole at the end of the disposable injector nozzle. The insulin turns into a vapor that passes through the outer layer of your skin. It then moves through the lower layers of your skin and into your bloodstream.
How it works
Insulin jet injectors use a compressed spring or a compressed gas cartridge to create the pressure to send the insulin through the pen into your skin.
Compressed springs are used more often. They’re lightweight, small, durable, and inexpensive.
Compressed gas cartridges typically contain either nitrogen or carbon dioxide. They can produce more pressure than compressed springs, but they cost quite a bit more, weigh more, and need to be replaced more often.
There are a few risks involved with using an insulin jet injector. However, these can be reduced with correct usage and proper care of the device.
The biggest risk with using an insulin jet injector is injecting the wrong amount of medication. If you don’t properly inject the insulin, some of it may stay on the surface of your skin, so it won’t reach your bloodstream. If this happens, you won’t get enough insulin to keep your blood sugar within your target range.
Your insulin jet injector may also deliver the wrong amount of insulin if you don’t care for it properly. You need to keep the insulin jet injector in working condition to make sure that it delivers an accurate amount of insulin.
Be sure to monitor your blood sugar carefully when you use one of these devices. Call your doctor right away if your blood sugar rises to a dangerous level.
Skin damage or pain
While insulin jet injectors don’t use a needle, they can still cause trauma to your skin. You may have slight bleeding and bruising at the injection site. Some people feel that the insulin jet injector hurts more than an injection with a typical insulin needle or pen.
If you take poor care of the device, another risk is infection. You need to sterilize your insulin jet injector on a regular basis. If you don’t, bacteria, viruses, and fungi may grow. Injecting these germs along with your insulin puts you at risk of infection. The instructions that come with your insulin jet injector can tell you how to sterilize your device. You can also ask your doctor to explain.
These needle-free devices can be complex to operate, and if you don’t maintain your insulin jet injector properly, you may also have air locks and other technical problems that can prevent you from using it. An air lock occurs when too much air in the device stops it from pulling in more insulin.
To remove air from the insulin jet injector, disconnect the insulin cartridge and adaptor from the main device. Next, tap the nozzle with your fingertips to bring the air to the top and out of the opening.
To help prevent an air lock, make sure that all of the pieces of the insulin jet injector are connected properly before taking insulin into the device. Also, be sure to hold the device correctly when taking insulin into it.
Several factors may deter people from using an insulin jet injector, but it has its advantages. Of course, the lack of a needle can be a big benefit for people who don’t like needles.
Advantages also include a faster delivery of insulin to the bloodstream. An insulin jet injector allows the insulin to spread over a larger area in the lower layer of your skin than a typical needle would. As a result, the insulin moves into your bloodstream faster than it would from a needle injection. And for this reason, people who learn how to use an insulin jet injector properly may not need to use as much insulin.
- doesn’t use a needle
- delivers drug into the bloodstream more quickly
- may use less insulin
- is expensive
- requires device maintenance
- isn’t as simple to use
- has the risks of incorrect dosage, skin damage or pain, and infection
Insulin jet injectors are more expensive than other methods of insulin delivery, such as insulin needles or pens. The insulin jet injector itself can cost anywhere from $200 to $700 in the United States. You also have to buy replacement injector nozzles and insulin adapters. Plus, many insurance companies don’t cover the cost of insulin jet injectors.
In comparison, an individual needle can cost about $0.25. Insulin pens are not expensive devices, either. They’re typically disposable or come with disposable, refillable cartridges. And insulin needles and pens are often covered by insurance.
Though the insulin jet injector has been around for several decades, it has never been very popular. This is likely due to its high cost and complex structure. However, if you have an extreme fear of needles, this device may be a good option for you. Talk to your doctor to find out more about the insulin jet injector and if it might work for you.