Pre-school youngsters with type I diabetes can be treated as successfully with insulin pumps as with daily injections, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine report.
A clinical trial at the Riley Hospital for Children studied 20 patients five years old or younger receiving treatment with continuous insulin infusion by pump, and 17 who were receiving injection therapy. Physicians compared control of blood sugar levels, parents' satisfaction and safety in both groups.
"Pump therapy was safe and well tolerated," said endocrinologist Linda DiMeglio, who led the study. "This therapy in preschool-aged children was not associated with clinically significantly differences in glycaemic control compared to intensive injection therapy."
The finding could make it easier for very young children with diabetes to receive treatment for the disease, and overcome treatment compliance issues associated with threating this patient group. Moreover, if glycaemic control can be improved over the long term via this approach, they may be less prone to develop serious diabetes-related complications, such as kidney, nerve and eye disease, in later life.
Parents were satisfied with the pumps; 95 per cent of families continued use of the device after the six-month study was completed.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the benefit of insulin pump therapy in terms of flexibility and convenience justify the increased costs for very young children with diabetes, said Dr DiMeglio.
"Studies of long-term outcomes of children started on pump therapy at very young ages also are needed."
Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. With type I diabetes, the body does not produce the insulin which is necessary for the body to be able to metabolise sugar.