Also called: Insulin Injector, Insulin Jet
Insulin jet injectors deliver insulin without the use of needles. Instead, a high-pressure air mechanism pushes a mist of the medication into the body through spaces between skin cells. This provides patients with diabetes an alternative method of insulin delivery, especially for patients who cannot use or are uncomfortable using needles and syringes. Other benefits may include more rapid absorption of insulin and a reduced occurrence of insulin-induced atrophy.
The use of insulin jet injectors comes with certain risks. Jet injectors are expensive and may not be covered by health insurance. These devices require regular cleaning to avoid bacterial contamination – requirements that are not associated with disposable needles and syringes.
In addition, some patients find high-pressure air delivery to be as painful as needle injection. Jet injectors may cause bruising, especially for people with less fat under their skin, such as thin people, children and the elderly.
Patients will have to adjust their insulin use when switching from a needle and syringe to an insulin jet injector. Using an injector device may change absorption rates, peak insulin activity and insulin levels. For these reasons, patients should monitor their glucose (blood sugar) level and work closely with their diabetes care team while making the transition to an injector.
About insulin jet injectors
Insulin jet injectors deliver insulin through the skin without a needle. Instead, a high-pressure air mechanism pushes an extremely fine mist of liquid insulin through spaces between skin cells.
Some patients with diabetes may be uncomfortable or unable to use the traditional needle and syringe method of insulin delivery due to vision problems, insulin-induced atrophy or other conditions. In addition, some patients find that the insulin jet injector helps to improve glycohemoglobin test results. For these patients, insulin jet injectors provide a viable alternative method of receiving their medication.
Jet injectors have benefits, but also certain potential drawbacks. These include:
- Expense. Jet injectors tend to be significantly more expensive than some other delivery methods and may not be covered by medical insurance. However, the expense of jet injectors may be recovered over several years’ use because patients save money by no longer needing to buy needles or syringes.
- Pain. Some patients find jet injection to be as painful as needle injection and may experience bruising. This is especially true in patients with little fat under the skin, such as thin people, children and the elderly.
- Dosage. Some medication may be lost during injection, especially when first learning to use the injector device. This may require patients with diabetes to pay close attention to their glucose (blood sugar) levels until a comfort level with the device is established.
- Maintenance. Injectors require more care and cleaning than disposable syringes.
Patients who switch from a needle and syringe method of insulin administration or an insulin pen to a jet injector will have to make several adjustments. One is determining the injection pressure. Too much pressure may cause bruising, but too little will cause leakage of the insulin and prevent optimal delivery. In addition, insulin delivered by an injector tends to work faster. Absorption rates, peak insulin activity and insulin levels all may change when switching to the injector method. For these reasons, patients should work closely with their diabetes care team while making the transition to an injector.
Pain levels associated with insulin jet injectors may vary from patient to patient. As a general rule, patients who inject the insulin in areas with more body fat tend to feel little or no pain. People with relatively little body fat, especially thin people, children and the elderly, are more likely to experience pain and bruising that can be similar to that experienced with standard needle injection.
It is recommended that many jet injectors be thoroughly cleaned every two weeks to prevent contamination with bacteria or other microbes. During cleaning, the injector is taken apart and the individual pieces are boiled and sterilized. Patients who prefer to avoid disassembling the injector can instead clean it with germicidal cleaning solutions. However, in some cases, these solutions may irritate a patient’s skin.
Diabetic patients may select from many models of jet injectors that provide various features. The models differ in the dosage level of insulin, the strength and adjustability of the device, and the use of disposable parts to avoid the need for cleaning. Many jet injectors come with training materials and some manufacturers provide telephone help lines. By working with their diabetic care team, patients can select the right jet injector device to suit their needs.
Ongoing research regarding insulin jet injectors
Until the recent approval of inhaled insulin, insulin jet injectors were the only insulin delivery device available that did not use a needle or a sharp cannula (needle-like tip to tubing used in an insulin pump). However, these devices have not proved to be widely popular. Concerns over care and maintenance of the device have frequently been cited as a reason against the use of jet injectors.
Disposable jet injectors are in development. Once introduced, they are expected to sell for a few dollars each. Proponents of these devices believe they will be covered by most insurance plans, which is not always the case with the more traditional insulin jet injectors.
Questions for your doctor on insulin injectors
Preparing questions in advance can help patients have more meaningful discussions with healthcare professionals regarding their condition. Patients may wish to ask their doctor the following questions related to insulin jet injectors:
- Is an insulin jet injector appropriate for me? Why or why not?
- What benefits do insulin jet injectors have for me?
- What are the disadvantages of the devices for me?
- I have heard some of the devices can be painful. Is there any way to reduce this pain?
- What type, manufacturer or model of insulin jet injector is best for me?
- Where on my body do I use an insulin jet injector?
- How can I get trained to use the device?
- What other insulin-delivery options are available to me?
- How do I safely use an insulin jet injector?
- Do I need to use a different type of insulin with an insulin jet injector?