It can happen in the middle of the night, during class or just about any time.
Colton Smith will hear a vibrating noise from his monitor that alerts him that his blood-sugar level is either too low or too high.
Colton, a 16-year-old high school football player who attends Jupiter Christian, has Type 1 diabetes. Two months ago, under the care of doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Smith switched to an insulin pump that the Food and Drug Administration approved last year.
It’s called the Medtronic MiniMed 670G, and it’s the first hybrid closed-loop system — also known as an “artificial pancreas” for its ability to predict and prevent an increase or a decrease in insulin before it occurs.
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“If the monitor indicates that my levels are too low, I will drink a Gatorade,” he said. “If it’s too high, I just hit OK.”
Either way, Smith has to prick his finger — something he does four or five times a day anyway — to make sure his blood-sugar level has been corrected.
Smith said the Medtronic pump represents a “game-changer” in his life.
“My blood-sugar levels are much more consistent and stable as compared to before,” Smith said. “Now it’s so much easier to get dialed in – my levels are almost always in range, and I feel better.”
Dr. Miladys Palau, a pediatric endocrinologist at Nicklaus Children’s, was among the first doctors to study the device as part of her fellowship at the Yale School of Medicine.
Palau said the Medtronic pump works by automatically measuring blood sugar, predicting when a rise or fall is going to occur and adjusting itself to deliver precise doses of background insulin, requiring minimal interaction from the patient.
It is available to patients 14 or older, and children ages 8-13 can use it depending on the discretion of the attending physician, she noted.
“Just like with any other pump, the patient can have a reaction,” Palau said. “But the pros far outweigh the cons. This is the only pump on the market that is able to communicate with the sensors.”
The device checks a patient’s blood sugar every five minutes, and the sensor sends information to the pump. The system calculates the rate of change and how much insulin — if any — is needed.
“If you are doing what the pump is telling you to do,” Palau said, “it works extremely well.”
The system is unique to each person because it learns the trends in the user’s blood-sugar levels.
“The more you use it, the better it works,” Colton said. “I feel completely safe and at peace with this pump.”