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Diabetic Supply Guide Home | Insulin | Insulin Delivery | Glucose Monitoring | Emergency | Routine Care | Food & Nutrition


Insulin Delivery

Syringes | Insulin pens | Injection aids | Jet injectors | External insulin pumps | Implantable Insulin Pumps | Insulin Inhaler


In addition to syringes, other devices have been developed to administer insulin as companies seek to improve patient comfort and convenience. Here we will look at the following types of devices:

  • Syringes
  • Insulin pens
  • Injection aids
  • Jet injectors
  • External insulin pumps
  • Implantable Insulin Pumps
  • Insulin Inhalers


Most people who use insulin inject it under the skin (subcutaneously) with a needle and syringe. A variety of syringes are available in a range of sizes of needle gauge, needle length and syringe capacity. You should choose the capacity based on your dosage:
If you take 30 units or less . . . use the 3/10 cc syringe
If you take 50 units or less . . . use the cc syringe
If you take up to 100 units . . . use the 1 cc syringe

Choose a needle gauge and length that is most comfortable for you:
Gauge - The larger the gauge, the finer the needle
Length - Children usually find the shorter needle more comfortable, but people who are overweight need the longer ones. Check with your diabetes educator or physician, since the needle length can affect absorption of insulin.

Check price and availability at your local pharmacy or diabetes supplier, and select the one that you are most comfortable using.

Capacity Gauge Size Brand names/Manufacturers
1 cc
1/2 cc
3/10 cc
28, 29,
1/2", 5/16",
3/8" (3/10 cc only)
Precision (Abbott), Ultra Thin (Aimsco), Ultra-Fine,
Micro-Fine (BD), Monoject (Can-Am Care),
Lite Touch (Medicore), UltiCare (UltiMed), ReliOn (Wal-Mart)

Insulin Pens

Insulin pens are handy if you want the convenience of carrying insulin with you in a discreet way. Some pens use replaceable cartridges of insulin; other models are disposable. The tip of the pen has a fine, short needle. Users turn a dial to select the desired dose of insulin and press a plunger on the end to deliver the insulin.

Brand Name Capacity Comment
(Owen Mumford)
4 models: delivers 1-16
or 2-32 units in 1-unit
Automatic side injection button;
use with any 1.5 or 3-ml insulin
BD Pen and BD Pen Mini
Deliver 1 - 30 units in 1-unit
increments, or 1/2 to 15 units
in -unit increments (Mini)
Use with all 150-ml insulin
cartridges; BD Original and
BD Ultra-Fine II Short Pen
Disetronic Pen
Delivers 1 - 80 units in
1-unit increments
Permits use of any type,
manufacturer, or mixture of insulin,
in disposable 3.15 ml cartridges
Humalog Pen
Humulin Pen
Humulin N Pen
Holds 300 units; delivers
in 1-unit increments
Disposable; prefilled with N,
lispro, mixtures
Humalog Mix 75/25
Humulin 70/30 Pen
Holds 300 units; delivers
in 1-unit increments
Use with 1.5-ml cartridges
NovoPen 1.5
(Novo Nordisk)
Delivers 1 - 40 units in
1-unit increments
Use with Novolin PenFill 1.5-ml
cartridge and NovoFine 30
disposable needles
NovoPen 3
(Novo Nordisk)
Delivers 2 - 70 units in
1-unit increments
Use with Novolin PenFill 3-ml
cartridges (available in regular, NPH, and 70/30) and NovoFine 30 disposable needles
Novolin Prefilled
(Novo Nordisk)
Delivers up to 58 units in
2-unit increments
Disposable; prefilled with N, regular,
70/30; use with NovoFine 30
disposable needles

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Injection Aids

A number of devices have been developed to facilitate injections. They work with most syringes. Other aids are intended for those who are visually impaired.

Brand names/
Autoject (Owen Mumford)
Automatic Injector (BD)
Inject-Ease (Palco)
Spring-loaded plastic syringe holders; position over skin,
press against site of injection, push button to insert
Syringe magnifier and light; enables user to see
calibrations, air bubbles
(Medicool Inc.)
Combination lancet and syringe injector
Infusion set, with a flexible indwelling catheter; insulin is
injected through an external port
Syringe and bottle holder; magnifies markings
Syringe and vial holder; magnifies markings
Monoject Injectomatic
(CanAm Care)
Similar to above, but made of metal instead of plastic
Syringe Magnifier
(Apothecary Products)
Clips onto syringe barrel
(Whittier Medical)
Bottle holder with syringe guide; enables change of
bottle without removing syringe; magnifies markings

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Insulin Jet Injectors

Insulin jet injectors send a fine spray of insulin through the skin by a high-pressure air mechanism instead of needles. These are great for people who fear needles, but they're expensive and you have to boil and sterilize the units frequently.

Brand Name Capacity Comment
0.5 - 50 units in 1/2
unit increments
Different models available for children and patients with tough skin
Injex 30
(Equidyne )
5 - 30 units Use with disposable ampule
Medi-Jector EZ
(Medi-Ject Corp)
2 - 50 units in 1/2
unit increments
Children's model available
Vitajet 3
(Bioject Corp)
2 - 50 units in 1/2
unit increments

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External Insulin Pumps

Insulin pumps are available for continuous subcutaneous delivery of insulin. Many find these to be an accurate, precise and flexible insulin delivery system that helps them maintain excellent glucose control.

External insulin pumps consist of a reservoir for insulin, a small battery-operated pump and a computer chip that controls insulin delivery, all in a case about the size of a deck of cards. It is connected to narrow, flexible plastic tubing that ends with a needle inserted just under the skin near the abdomen. This infusion set is changed every few days. The insulin pump weighs about 3 ounces and can be worn on a belt or in a pocket. Pumps are either waterproof or water-resistant with a waterproof cover.

Users can set the pump to give a steady trickle or 'basal' amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Most pumps have the option for setting several rates. Pumps release bolus doses of insulin at meals and at times when blood sugar is too high, based on the user's programming. Studies have shown that pump therapy can improve glucose control, particularly for those seeking tight control.

If you use an insulin pump, it's really important to monitor your blood sugar frequently so you can determine the right dose and also to be sure that the insulin is being delivered. Many insurance plans cover the cost of the pump and supplies.

Brand Name Description Alarms Power
Battery life


Basal dose every 3 minutes
0.1 - 4.9 u/hr in 0.1 u

0.1 - 9.9 u/hr in 0.5 u increments

Occlusion, near empty 4 1.5-volt
silver oxide batteries
3.5" x
3.3" x
3.5 oz
(Disetronic Medical Systems)
2 basal profiles, delivered every 3 minutes in doses as small as .005 unit; 5 bolus alternatives, rapid delivery
(5 sec/unit)Cartridge design
Occlusion, system error Lithium power supply 4.2" x
1.9" x
4.2 oz
H-Tron V100
(Disetronic Medical Systems)
Uses U-100 only
Basal dose delivered
every 3 minutes Bolus dose 0.1 - 25 in increments of 0.1, 0.2, or 0.5 units
Low battery, low
cartridge, pump stopped, automatic off, pump due for
2 3-volt silver oxide batteries; 8 weeks' battery life 3.6" x 2.16"0 x 0.75"; 3.5 oz
MiniMed 508
Basal dose varies
Bolus dose 0 - 35 in
increments of 0.1 u
Near-empty and
3 1.5-volt
silver oxide
batteries; 4-6 weeks' battery
3.4" x
1.9" x
3.5 oz

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Implantable Insulin Pumps

Researchers are working hard to develop an implantable insulin pump that can measure blood glucose levels and deliver the exact amount of insulin needed. Pumps in development are disk-shaped and weigh 6-8 oz. They are surgically implanted and can be programmed to deliver a basal dose continuously and bolus doses when needed.

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Insulin Inhalers

As another alternative to injections, a variety of insulin inhalers are under development, and some are getting closer to becoming available on the market. Some use compressed air to convert a dose of dry or dissolved rapid-acting insulin into particles that can be inhaled (a process called aerosolization). Others are breath-activated. The doses are inhaled through the mouth directly into the lungs, where it is easily absorbed and passes quickly into the bloodstream.

Because most of the models use rapid-acting insulin, they are intended for use before meals, and will not totally replace injections. However, investigation of the inhalation of fast- and slow-acting insulin is also under way. Researchers who are comparing the effectiveness of the new devices to insulin injections are reporting that they are successful in delivering insulin and in controlling blood glucose levels.

Some of the questions that are still being researched for these devices include: Will long-term use of inhalers irritate the lungs? Will they be effective in a person with a cold or other respiratory disorder? Precise measuring techniques for dosing and delivery must also be perfected.

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