Effect of flow rate and insulin priming on the recovery of insulin from microbore infusion tubing

Pediatrics. 1998 Dec;102(6):1401-6. doi: 10.1542/peds.102.6.1401.


Background: A retrospective medical record review of 13 consecutive, hyperglycemic, extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants treated with continuous insulin infusions revealed a 14- to 24-hour delay (mean, 19 hours) in blood glucose normalization despite stepwise increases in insulin infusion rates.

Objective: This in vitro study examined the effects of flow rate and insulin priming on insulin recovery from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubing and polyethylene (PE)-lined PVC tubing infused with a standard insulin stock solution.

Methods: Stock insulin solution (0.2 U/mL) was infused through microbore PVC or PE-lined tubing at flow rates of 0.05 and 0.2 mL/h. To determine if saturation of nonspecific binding sites would alter effluent insulin concentration, we compared insulin recovery from tubing previously flushed with the stock solution and tubing primed with 5 U/mL of insulin for 20 minutes. Effluent samples, which were collected at baseline and at six time points during a 24-hour period, were immediately frozen at -20 degreesC. Insulin concentration was measured by IMx immunoassay. Data were analyzed using general linear modeling with repeated measures.

Results: At 0.05 mL/h flow rate, insulin recovery from unprimed PVC tubing at 1, 2, 4, and 8 hours was 17%, 11%, 27%, and 55%, respectively, with 100% recovery at 24 hours. From insulin-primed tubing, insulin recovery was approximately 70% at 1, 2, and 4 hours, and close to 100% at 8 hours. At a faster flow rate of 0.2 mL/h, insulin recovery at 1, 2, 4, and 8 hours was 22%, 38%, 67%, and 75% vs 42%, 85%, 91% and 95% from unprimed and insulin-primed PVC tubing, respectively. Similar results were obtained from unprimed and insulin-primed PE-lined tubing at 0.2 mL/h flow rate.

Conclusions: Priming of microbore tubing with 5 U/mL of insulin solution for 20 minutes to block nonspecific binding sites enhances delivery of a standard insulin stock at infusion rates typically used to treat hyperglycemic ELBW infants. We conclude that priming the tubing with a higher concentration of insulin before initiation of standard insulin infusion therapy should accelerate achievement of steady-state insulin delivery and correction of hyperglycemia in ELBW infants.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Drug Delivery Systems / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Infusions, Intravenous / instrumentation*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Polyethylenes
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Polyethylenes
  • Polyvinyl Chloride