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Choosing the right infusion set 

BY BEVERLY FOX HAWKINS RN, MS, CDE

Infusion sets are designed to carry insulin from your insulin pump to your body as comfortably and effectively as possible. There are many different designs and combinations of cannulas and tubing lengths to accommodate a variety of body types, lifestyles and activity levels.

Choosing an infusion set that works for you is one of the most important aspects of successful pumping. Here are some of the options you'll want to consider.

Steel or soft cannula?
Soft cannula infusion sets are more popular than steel ones and are generally considered more comfortable. They may cause less trauma to the tissue and are a good choice if you've had allergic reactions to nickel. The soft cannula set is inserted with a steel introducer needle that is removed after insertion is complete. You can also wear them longer—these infusion sets should be changed every 48 to 72 hours.

Steel cannula infusion sets are a good choice for anyone with an allergy to the materials in the soft cannula, or if you've had problems with soft cannula sets becoming kinked or dislodged. They may also be a better option for people with high muscle mass and low body fat. This type of infusion set should be changed every 24 to 48 hours.

90º or angled insertion?
90º infusion sets are inserted straight into the skin at a 90º angle and have a shorter introducer needle. This type is good for quick insertion or for people who have needle phobia. You can use 90º insertion with steel and soft cannulas.

Angled infusion sets are inserted at a 20º to 45º angle to the skin, using a longer introducer needle. These are good for slow insertion. What's more, they can accommodate a wider range of body types because they allow greater variety in infusion depths, so they may be a better option for people with high muscle mass and low body fat. Only soft infusion sets can be inserted at an angle.

What cannula length?
Below, you'll see recommended cannula lengths based on various body mass index (BMI) levels. This is just a general recommendation—working closely with your healthcare provider will ensure that you identify the proper cannula length for you.

Age Body mass index (BMI) Recommended cannula length
90º insertion Angled/20º
to 45º insertion
Children under 12 years old  All  6 or 8mm  13mm
Adolescents and adults  < 25  6 or 8mm  13mm
 25 to 27  8 or 10mm  17mm

Beverly Fox Hawkins is a registered nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator®. She is also an active member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and volunteers as a speaker for the American Diabetes Association.

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