Diabetes Care Group

Insulin Pump Terminology

Those who are investigating insulin pumps will find that there is what we call the “insulin pump language”.  This refers to the many terms used to describe various functions that the insulin pump will perform. 

We’ll give you brief explanations of these terms so you can understand what your diabetes care instructor is telling you when they are speaking about insulin pumps.

Basal Rate

When we hear basal we might think of something that has to do with cooking.  However when it comes to insulin pumps basal rates are an important factor.

The basal rate refers to the amount of insulin your body needs throughout the day.  This does not include the amount of insulin you require for foods you may eat.

This is how it works.  A diabetic may need one unit of fast acting insulin each hour from his insulin pump.  That one unit each hour would be called the basal rate.

Temporary Basal Rate

The temporary basal rate is similar to the basal rate.  Basically it is a function that allows you to change the amount of insulin you get every hour for a temporary amount of time.  This is useful for periods of vigorous exercise when less insulin is needed by the body or during sick days when sugar readings could be running high.

Basal profile

Some insulin pumps come with a feature where several different scheduled basal rates can be selected on the insulin pump.  For instance basal rate one, basal rate two or basal rate three.  This is really a customization feature.

Bolus - Bolusing

This is the feature of the insulin pump that allows you to give yourself extra insulin when you eat meals.  Insulin pump do not know when you are eating and would not adjust automatically to the foods that you eat.  So you have to tell your insulin pump that for this slice of pizza you will need “X” amount of insulin.  You of course would figure this amount based on carbohydrate counting.

You also bolus for high blood sugars.  If your sugar is running 50 mg/dl over your target blood sugar you would give yourself extra insulin to bring your blood sugar down to a normal level.  That amount would be based on a calculation you worked out with your diabetes healthcare professional.

Extended Bolus

An extended bolus is a feature that most insulin pumps include.  Usually it is helpful for extended meals during things like banquets or holidays.  So say you’ve determined that you will need eight units to cover the meal you’re about to eat that is going to take you a couple hours to eat. You can have those eight units delivered over a two-hour period. Your insulin pump mimics the way the pancreas functions.

This can also be helpful for meals that have a delayed digestion such as meals that are higher in fat.


Loading refers to refilling your insulin pump with insulin and switching infusion sets.

Infusion Sets

Infusion sets refer to the patch like adhesive that connects to our body usually in the stomach area.  This is how the insulin travels from the insulin pump and into our body.  Infusion sets are not permanent and have to be changed regularly usually every two to three days.

Insulin on board (IOB)

This refers to a calculation that insulin pumps run to show how much insulin is active in your body from bolusing for meals or high blood sugar.  Most new pumps come with this feature.


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This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

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