Device reduces needlesticks in diabetics

Needlestick injuries receive a good deal of attention in the health care community, but usually from the perspective of the health care professional. But what about the patient? Diabetes patients and their families, with thousands of annual injections, face many of the same risks as providers.

Needle-free jet injectors can help diabetic patients and their caregivers reduce needlesticks at home. "This is especially important for patients who take insulin and are HIV-positive," says Jaye Sengewalg, RN, MSN, director of diabetes care and education for Activa, a manufacturer of needle-free insulin injection systems based in Bradley, IL. "It's good to be able to let them know about this."

Nurses can inform patients about the technology during discharge instructions, she advises. "This minimizes family exposure," she explains. One patient's sister got an accidental needlestick, and as a result, the patient insisted on having home health come in to give insulin injections.

Other applications are on the horizon. "We are also using it for growth hormone in children, and medications for multiple sclerosis, with other applications down the road," she says.

The five-inch device looks like a magic marker. The power is supplied by a coiled spring and a piston; there is a middle suction with a medication chamber.

"There is a little window so you can dial in your dosage, calibrated in units. The tip nozzle has a tiny opening; when you reset the spring, the release pushes insulin out," she says. "The insulin itself acts as a needle, so there is nothing sharp or invasive."

Once the tiny stream of medication enters the site, it mists out and is absorbed. "The patient gets improved absorption with this method instead of a bolus of fluid," she says.

Previously, jet injectors were used primarily for needle-phobic patients. "But in this day and age, with bloodborne pathogens, there is another reason to be aware of it," she says.

Latex-allergic diabetics also benefit. "The injector has no latex components and neither does the adapter used to attach the insulin vial," says Sengewalg. "The elimination of coring the stopper with a needle greatly decreases the amount of latex that can contaminate the insulin."