November 23, 2012

The Pressure of Diabetes Management while Traveling


Tis the season for traveling. If you’re going to be flying the friendly skies, you may be interested to know if your diabetes device may be affected. This study raises the concerns to ensure you’re understanding of what needs to be considered.

Hyper vigilance is a daily mandate for diabetes control. However the bar is raised when traveling.  The stress of flight times, the hidden exercise of hustling to gates, hauling heavy bags, and lack of planned meals imposes a challenge to your diabetes more than meets the eye.

The airport security full-body scans can affect your diabetes device.  This is not a tried and true caveat. This is a head-up for your diabetes control to arrive safely at your destination. Be aware of the possibility that the airport security screening may interfere with your diabetes device. When an insulin pump or CGM device is passed through a full-body scanner, X-ray scanner, or other imaging equipment, there is a risk the motor may experience electromagnetic malfunctioning.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has provided a statement for people with concerns that the full- body scans could interfere with their diabetes devices. It says, “If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector with your insulin pump, notify the Security Officer that you are wearing an insulin pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead.”

Medtronic says that their CGM devices and pumps can safely pass through metal detectors but that the pump and CGM device should be removed if going through an airport body scanner. Medtronic provides customers with airport information cards, that says “To avoid removing your devices, you may request an alternative screening process. If you choose to go through a full body scanner, you must remove your insulin pump and CGM [device] (sensor and transmitter). Do not send your devices through the X-ray machine as an alternative.”

Animas recommends that patients not expose their pumps to X-ray equipment and instead request a hand-wand inspection. So if you wear an Animas pump – opt for the pat-down.

The makers of the Omnipod pump, Insulet, do  not advise users to avoid any machines. The Omnipod utilizes shape-memory alloy wire technology, as opposed to a direct current motor, thus rendering it theoretically safe from electromagnetic malfunctioning risk.

A newer insulin pump available is the t-slim. This insulin pump has a few more whistles and bells than the others. Beyond the technical difficulties that the full-body scanners can induce, the t-slim has an exceptional insulin delivery system that can prevent the skewed delivery of insulin in an atmospheric pressure change. The hypobaric pressure change can result in an increased insulin delivery of 0.623%. This could be the difference of being met at the gate by your family and friends or the paramedics.

You’re not reading this for a lesson in physics but you’re going to get one. The hypobaric pressure, HYPO aka decreased pressure, leads to an increase in bubble formation. This will cause a discrepancy in insulin delivery while in flight. The t-slim has a MicroDelivery Technology that defies the laws of nature and protects the insulin pump user from overdosing during the flight.

This applies to the CGM crowd, as well.  According to another study, the mean absolute relative difference in CGM readings was lower during hyperbaric than hypobaric conditions, and sensor sensitivity was slightly decreased during hypobaric conditions.

Whether you’re flying from Atlanta to Dallas or Beijing to Chicago – test often! Better to be safe than sorry.

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