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FreeStyle Libre

FreeStyle Libre
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FreeStyle Libre
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The Abbott FreeStyle Libre has come as an entirely new concept in glucose monitoring by providing much greater data than blood glucose testing whilst being more affordable than continuous glucose monitors (CGM).

The FreeStyle Libre provides ‘flash glucose monitoring’ with glucose readings provided by scanning a sensor rather than pricking your finger.

What are the benefits of FreeStyle Libre?

Due to way the Libre works, there are a number of benefits:

  • Reduced need to take so many blood glucose tests
  • Provides graphs of how your sugar levels have been varying - in a similar way to how a CGM does
  • Scanning the sensor shows how much your results are trending upwards or downwards
  • More affordable than a CGM
  • Sensor is waterproof in up to 1m of metre for 30 minutes

How the FreeStyle Libre works

The FreeStyle Libre works by having a small round sensor applied to your arm.

The sensor is a round disc, 5mm high and 35mm diameter, making it roughly the size of a £2 coin.

The sensor is applied to the skin with a handheld applicator and then lasts for 14 days. Most people that were used in patient trials of the Libre rated the application of the sensor as being painless.

Within the 14 days of usage, the sensor allows you to scan the sensor with the handset which sends data of your sugar levels over the previous 8 hours to the Libre system’s handset.

When you scan, you therefore get not just a glucose reading, as you would with a blood glucose meter, but can also see whether your sugar levels are starting to go up, down or are stable.

How much does the FreeStyle Libre cost?

At the time of writing, the FreeStyle Libre is available at the following prices direct from Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre website:

  • Starter Pack - reader plus two 14 day sensors: £159.95
  • FreeStyle Libre Reader: £57.95
  • FreeStyle Libre Sensor: £57.95

Power in the data

The data provided by the FreeStyle Libre is the largely same as the data provided by a CGM, just so long as you ensure you take a scan at least once every 8 hours.

The one feature that CGMs have that the FreeStyle Libre most notably lacks is that it cannot alert you when glucose levels are going too low. However, the much lower price tag for the Libre means that some people will not be put off buying the Libre despite lacking the alerts.

In terms of hypos, particularly over night ones, the fact that the Libre allows you to review graphs of your sugar levels whilst you’ve been asleep means that you can see that if your sugar levels have been trending low over night and can make changes to minimise the risk of future nocturnal hypos.

Glucose levels

Note that the sensor provides a glucose level reading not by measuring the level of glucose in the blood but the level of glucose in interstitial fluid, fluid in the body which acts as a reservoir of nutrients, including glucose, for your body’s cells. This is the same method of measuring sugar levels that continuous glucose monitors use.

Whilst the sugar levels provided by readings from interstitial fluid are largely a close match for blood sugar readings, there will sometimes be differences. The differences should not be large but may be significant at lower levels. For this reason, it is advisable to carry out some blood glucose tests during the day to check for accuracy and to do a blood test if you think you may be hypo.

Technical specifications (reader)

  • Radio frequency: 13.56 MHz
  • Data port: Micro USB
  • Blood glucose measurement range: 1.1 to 27.8 mmol/L
  • Blood ketone measurement range: 0.0 to 8.0 mmol/L
  • Battery: 1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery life: 7 days typical usage between charging
  • Service life: 3 years of typical use
  • Dimensions: 95 x 60 x 16 mm
  • Weight: 65 g

Operating and storage ranges

  • Operating temperature: 10° to 45°C
  • Storage temperature: -20° to 60°C
  • Altitude: -381 m (-1,250 ft) to 3,048 m (10,000 ft)

Technical specifications (sensors)

  • Memory: 8 hours (32 readings)
  • Sensor life: Up to 14 days
  • Battery: 1 silver oxide battery (lasts the life of the sensor)
  • Dimensions: 35 mm diameter and 5 mm height
  • Weight: 5 g

Operating and storage ranges

  • Operating temperature: 10° to 45°C
  • Storage temperature: 4° to 30°C
  • Relative humidity: 10-90% (non-condensing)
  • Altitude: -381 m (-1,250 ft) to 3048 m (10,000 ft)
  • Water resistance: IP27: Can withstand immersion into 1m (3 ft) of water for up to 30 mins
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