Management of diabetes mellitus: is the pump mightier than the pen?

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2012 Feb 28;8(7):425-33. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2012.28.


Continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII, or insulin pump therapy) reduces HbA1c levels and hypoglycaemia in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) compared with multiple daily insulin injections (MDI). The greatest reduction in HbA(1c) levels with CSII occurs in patients with the worst glycaemic control; therefore, the most appropriate and cost-effective use of CSII in adults with T1DM is in those who have continued, elevated HbA(1c) levels or disabling hypoglycaemic episodes with MDI (including the use of long-acting insulin analogues and structured patient education). The disadvantages of CSII include higher costs than MDI and the risk of ketosis in the event of pump failure. In children with T1DM, CSII may be used when MDI is considered impractical or inappropriate. Pumps are not generally recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus but may improve control in some subgroups. A new generation of smaller insulin infusion pumps with an integrated cannula, called patch pumps, could improve uptake of CSII in general. The important clinical question is not whether CSII is more efficacious than MDI in general adult T1DM, but whether CSII further improves glycaemic control when this control continues to be poor with MDI, and evidence exists that in most cases it does.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Injections, Subcutaneous*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Insulin Infusion Systems*


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin