Scientists in Australia have issued a warning about the effects of cabin pressure on insulin dispensers. A study has shown that in-flight cabin pressure could result in insulin pumps delivering either too much or too little of medication, which could put more sensitive diabetics at risk.
The research recommended that people disconnect their pump before flying, and ensure there are no air bubbles in the insulin when they reconnect it at cruising altitude and again on landing.
The study examined ten different insulin pumps, mainly used by people suffering from type 1 diabetes to deliver insulin throughout the day, finding that during takeoff, as the air pressure decreased, the pumps were delivering around small amounts of extra insulin, while during landing, when the pressure is increasing, some insulin was going back into the pumps so that they delivered too little of the treatment.
The study, which was published in the journal Diabetes Care, said that the problems were not common but could mean diabetics receiving the wrong amounts of insulin. The suggested a range of safety checks, including insulin cartridges only containing a certain amount of insulin.
Researcher Bruce King said “I believe most people would rather know exactly how much insulin their pumps were giving. Following the recommendations means that they know and are in control of what is happening with their pump.”

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