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What Should I Do With My Old Insulin Pump?

Patients with diabetes mellitus know how hard it is to maintain a proper blood sugar level. To avoid severe diabetic complications proper regulation of blood sugar is necessary.

In both the cases of type-1 and type-2 diabetes, administration of insulin injections might be necessary. Some patients need multiple shots of insulin injections per day.

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In such circumstances, one might opt to use an insulin pump. However, there are several treatment options to choose from as a result an insulin pump might not always be the most convenient choice.

If you are someone who is changing treatment methods or simply want to try out new options then you might be wondering what to do with your old insulin pump. In this article, we will provide you with some suggestions.

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Table of Content

Knowing Your Insulin Pump

To know if your insulin pump is working or not you need to know about its parts and how it works.

Insulin pumps are automated devices that are used for subcutaneous insulin therapy. It is mainly used by patients of type-1 and type-2 diabetes mellitus who need frequent short-acting insulin administration.

The parts of an insulin pump include:

  • A battery-powered pump containing a container or reservoir in which insulin is stored.
  • A catheter, which is a thin plastic tube that is connected to the reservoir and allows the flow of insulin.
  • An infusion set, which consists of a metal or Teflon patch under which there is a needle consisting of a cannula. The cannula is inserted into the subcutaneous fatty layer of the skin through which the insulin is supplied.
  • Patch pumps contain all three parts combined into one and worn directly on the body. It is more compact and does not contain long tubing parts. However, the parts need to be changed more frequently.

Now let us come to the question, how does an insulin pump work? Insulin pumps took inspiration from the pancreas and have a similar mode of action. They function by supplying short-acting insulin continuously at the body’s basal rate.

how does an insulin pump work

It is a computerized device programmed in such a way that it would monitor the body’s blood sugar level. It would supply a persistent amount of insulin from time to time. This would allow the patient to be free of administering the dosage themselves.

The automated device can also be programmed to give you bolus doses. The bolus dose helps to combat the increased level of blood sugar during meal times. It also helps reduce the level of glucose. Especially if you are taking an increased level of carbohydrates in your diet.

The Pros and Cons of Having An Insulin Pump

There are several treatment options to choose from while combating diabetes mellitus. They vary according to the patient’s physiological and metabolic needs.

However, if you are someone who is trying to get rid of your insulin pump then you must consider the pros and cons of it.

Pros of using an insulin pump::
  • Fewer needles would be necessary as you will be changing the needle only while changing your infusion set every few days.
  • The accuracy level is higher than you administering the insulin shot yourself. There is a lower risk of overdosing or underdosing.
  • It is much more convenient to maintain a bolus amount of insulin.
  • There would be more efficient maintenance of blood sugar levels and a lower risk of developing hypoglycemia.This is important if you are someone who constantly suffers from symptoms of low blood sugar.
  • Your A1c levels might be improved.
  • Convenient for a planning exercise.
  • It efficiently combats the early morning rise in blood sugar levels which is a common occurrence in diabetes patients known as the ‘dawn phenomenon’.
Cons of using an insulin pump::
  • The pump needs to be programmed all day by inputting new data. You would also need to change the infusion set every 2 to 3 days.
  • Using an insulin pump is a matter of huge commitment. You need to regularly monitor your blood sugar level to ensure the proper functioning of the device.
  • If you don’t check your blood sugar regularly then you might develop serious diabetic conditions like diabetic ketoacidosis which can lead to life-threatening consequences.
  • Considering the cost of the parts as well as the number of times you need to change the supplies, it is quite expensive to use an insulin pump.
  • Proper training is necessary to operate the device correctly. You might need to make multiple visits to your health care professional or your nearby hospital. Which is quite a hassle during this pandemic.

Reasons Why You Might Change The Pump

Though the insulin pump might be a good solution for continuous insulin supply it might just not be the thing for you. Here are a few reasons listed as follows:

  • You want to be discreet about your condition and don’t want to wear a device that is very much noticeable to other people.
  • Your pump is broken or malfunctioning.
  • It is uncomfortable for you to wear a device all the time.
  • The operations of the pump are quite confusing to you so you don’t feel comfortable using it yourself.
  • It is tiresome for you to figure out all the minor details like finding out the insulin dosing, quantity of carb intake, and level of physical activity.
  • It is a hassle for you to check your blood sugar more than 4 times a day.

So now that you’ve decided to get rid of your pump. Let’s see how you can dispose of it.

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What to Do With Your Old Insulin Pump?

If you are shifting to a different treatment method or simply want to buy a new pump then there are several options that you might take to manage your old one.

  • You can keep it as a backup pump in case the new one malfunctions. The more the old one would stay on the shelf the more it would lose its efficiency.
  • You can donate it to the less fortunate people in need through a charitable organization dealing with diabetes. Several organizations are working for this cause.
  • You can also donate it for research purposes.
  • If there is a warranty period then you can contact the manufacturer and replace it with a new one. They might take it in and refurbish it and provide it to a new user.

Fix Your Broken Pump

Your pump might start malfunctioning leaving you with a broken pump. Here are some ways you can fix some common problems:

Bubbles in the Reservoir or Tubing

If bubbles are present in the reservoir or tubes of the pump then proper insulin doses are not supplied. It might lead to hyperglycemia.

To avoid this problem you must take the following steps:

  • Carefully prime out air from the reservoir and tubings
  • Making sure all the attachments are airtight
  • Use insulin that is room temperature


Occlusions are blockages in the instrument. Your machine might even show a warning on the display screen.

To avoid such problems you must do the following:

  • Check for blockages in your tubings.
  • Change your infusion sites if occlusions occur often
  • Contact your health team if you face occlusions frequently.

Leaking Reservoir

Your reservoir may be leaking if the rubber seals are broken or damaged. It may happen if they lack proper lubrication while being manufactured.

Here’s what you should do if your reservoirs are leaking:

  • Change your reservoir if it is leaking
  • If they continue to leak then you may need to get a new set of reservoirs
  • You can contact the manufacturer if further problems prevail

Detaching of Infusion Sets

Infusion sets may become detached due to excessive sweating or low-grade adhesive.

To prevent this from happening you should:

  • Check if your infusion set is attached properly
  • Apply a stronger adhesive

You’re lucky if you can re-use your old insulin pump. But for those whose pumps are beyond repair. Look at the other options given in this section.

Selling Your Old Insulin Pump

As you are not a licensed healthcare professional it will be illegal for you to sell your insulin pump. You cannot even lend it to anyone. As it is a prescription item only.

One can only buy it from a physician or licensed professional with a proper prescription. They would be needing multiple consultations before they can properly use it.

Possession or selling of such items without proper prescription may face legal actions and is punishable under the law. You might find some used Medtronic pumps on craigslist for buying or selling. But be sure that none of it is legal.

Donating Your Old Insulin Pump

As it is illegal to sell your insulin pump you may donate it to a charitable organization. Some several hospitals and clinics take in used insulin pumps and provide them to patients who fit the requirements.

Although there are some restrictions on distributions on supplying these products as they need to be strictly prescribed. So you might face difficulty donating as an individual.

However, some non-profit organizations take donations from individuals even though they may have restrictions while distributing them.

Recycling Your Pumps

You need to keep an eye out and properly check the boxes for the recycling sign. Then you may be able to recycle some parts of the pump.

 However, since the pump is an electronic device then you must properly dispose of the product in an e-waste bin which can be found in electronic centers.

Finally, you know what options you have with your pumps. So choose what you can use your old insulin pumps for.

Final Thoughts

If you are wondering what to do with your old insulin pump, then the best option would be to donate it. You can also keep it as a spare but must take great care of it.

Finally, make sure your current method of insulin intake is sufficient for your needs.

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Can I donate my insulin pump?

Yes, you can donate your insulin pump. Several organizations are working towards this cause. You can also donate it to a licensed hospital.

What can you do with an unused insulin pump?

You can keep the pump as a spare in case your current pump malfunctions. You can also donate your pump to the hospital which can provide it to the patients who fit the criteria.

You can also contact the manufacturer and replace it with a new one if you are within the warranty period.

Can I return my Medtronic insulin pump?

If the product supplied to you does not meet your needs then you can return the product to the manufacturer. But the product should be unopened.

It should not suffer any damage and it must be shipped to you 30 days before returning. You should contact Medtronic customer service for further details.

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