Local News

Duke Researchers Looking At Insulin Pump For Children With Diabetes

Posted May 6, 2002

— Children under five make up the fastest growing group of people with Type 1 diabetes, but they are also the most difficult to treat. However, a device used by adults and teens can help even the youngest of diabetes patients.

Colleen Lawson likes to pretend she is still a baby, but the 3-year-old has some very grown-up responsibilities. Colleen has Type 1 diabetes, a tough disease to treat at her age.

"Children at this age have highly erratic food intake. Their exercise and activity are highly variable," pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Michael Freemark said.

Erratic sugar levels can cause seizures, coma and lifelong disabilities. Lawson used to get insulin injections, but now she wears a little blue pump on her back which releases a continuous flow of insulin.

Pumps are commonly used in adults, but Colleen is one of the youngest children to get one. Health experts have voiced their concerns that young children would pull the needle out.

"I also had concerns about children curiously playing with it,"

Colleen received her pump as part of a study at Duke. Researchers put nine children ages two to five on insulin pumps. During the first six months, all of the children's blood glucose levels dropped. Many fell within the acceptable range for the first time.

Jean Litton, a diabetes educator, says other than the initial curiousity, the children did not mess with the pumps.

"We require that parents monitor very carefully and provide continuous supervision and oversight with children on pumps," Litton said.

Colleen's mom, Jeanne, admits the pump was confusing at first, but it is like second nature now.

"I think I could do it with my eyes closed," she said.

While the pumps hold a lot of promise, they are not for everyone. It requires a lot of parental supervision. Doctors will have to carefully select the children who get pumps and those who stay in insulin injections.

The pump does not eliminate the need to regularly check blood sugar. Patients in the study checked their sugar at least four times a day.


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