A device that acts as an artificial pancreas was better in managing blood sugar levels among type 2 diabetics compared with manually getting insulin, a new study reveals.
The device, variations of which have been used previously to treat type 1 diabetics, more consistently kept blood sugar levels of type 2 diabetics within the target zone than the control group. Experts argue this technology could help improve health outcomes and ultimately reduce trips to the doctor for management of blood sugar levels. That's crucial because when diabetes isn't managed well, high blood sugar levels can extend hospital stays and increase the risk of complications and even death, according to the researchers.
The artificial pancreas in question is an automated insulin pump that doubles as a glucose monitor. It's still new and is more commonly used among type 1 diabetics — patients who must be given multiple shots of insulin every day to avoid complications.
The study is the first to test the device among type 2 diabetics outside a critical setting, said study author Roman Hovorka, research director at University of Cambridge's Metabolic Research Laboratories.
The findings were published June 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Artificial Pancreas Pumps Insulin Automatically
According to Hovorka, the artificial pancreas was able to "considerably" improve blood sugar control and didn't increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar level for in-patients requiring insulin on the general ward.
The researchers say that in the United States, one in every four hospital patient is a diabetic, and diabetes management could be affected by a number of factors, including illness, dietary changes, and medication. These variables mean that most patients need more frequent care from hospital staff.
Not so with the artificial pancreas, however. With it, most of the care that staffs administer can be automated. Insulin is delivered based on continuous blood sugar level readings, allowing the patient reduce hospital visits because they receive proper care and management even without the help of hospital staff at all times.
The Disadvantages Of Using An Artificial Pancreas
There are, however, some downsides. The first major hurdle is whether an artificial pancreas would be a cost-effective option for type 2 diabetics. It also doesn't help that because the device is still new — the first one was FDA-approved in 2016 — most hospitals haven't had time to create policies regarding its use.
Also, the device doesn't act as a full-fledged pancreas replacement.
"It's mimicking important functions of the pancreas but not the whole function of the pancreas," said Hovorka.