In-flight insulin study questioned

13 September 2011 11:49

Diabetes patients should view a recent study on in-flight use of insulin pumps with scepticism, an expert says

Diabetes patients should view a recent study on in-flight use of insulin pumps with scepticism, an expert says

A medical expert has cast doubts on recent claims that air passengers with diabetes may end up injecting the wrong amount of insulin because of pressure changes inside a plane.

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics journal reported that insulin pumps when used in conditions of changing atmospheric pressure may end up delivering incorrect levels of the hormone.

Research simulated aircraft conditions within a hypobaric chamber, with a small number of type 1 diabetes patients participating in the experiment.

In an editorial published in the journal, Irl B Hirsch, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine said the data was not sufficient to draw such broad conclusions.

The findings could potentially explain why patients who use the pumps see changes in their blood glucose levels, but variations in insulin amounts delivered during the simulation tests were only marginal, he said.

It is advisable for diabetes sufferers to take out a medical travel insurance and take good care while travelling, but Dr Hirsch says it would be unwise to panic about using insulin pumps in-flight based on the small-scale research.

"This study was implemented in such a small number of people that large conclusions may not be justified... It is possible the authors overreacted in their recommendations," he said.

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