Artificial pancreas improves quality of life for parents of very young children with type 1 diabetes

Posted on 24 June 2019

Parents holding their toddler smiling

 

A new study has shown that parents and caregivers of very young children with type 1 diabetes had important improvements to quality of life while using hybrid closed-loop technology – also known as the artificial pancreas.

Twenty children aged between one and seven trialled the artificial pancreas for two three-week periods. Their parents and caregivers then completed a survey which explored the benefits, limitations and any improvements that could be made to the technology.

They reported that they spent less time managing their child’s diabetes and had improved quality of sleep. They also felt generally less worried about their child’s glucose control.

Diabetes management in the very young can be challenging as children of this age commonly have unpredictable eating habits and activity levels. This study shows that using the artificial pancreas in very young children with type 1 can reduce those challenges and improve quality of life for their families.

Why did they do this research?

JDRF has supported Professor Roman Hovorka of Cambridge University in developing the artificial pancreas since 2006. It consists of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), an insulin pump and a computer program working together to automate background insulin delivery. Professor Hovorka has been testing its benefits in various groups of people and has recently shown that it is safe and effective in very young children with type 1.

Managing type 1 in very young children is particularly challenging for their families as they can have unpredictable outbursts of activity, irregular eating habits and are also prone to developing a fear of hypos. In addition, they need very small amounts of insulin and may need others to administer their treatment. This can be stressful and worrying for families of children with type 1, and can increase the burden of the condition.

As the artificial pancreas continuously monitors glucose and automatically calculates and gives the correct amount of insulin to the user, it could reduce the burden that diabetes management of very young children places on their families and improve their quality of life.

What did they do?

Twenty children aged one to seven from across Europe were given unrestricted, day and night use of the Cambridge FlorenceM artificial pancreas at home for two three-week periods. Their parents and caregivers were then asked to complete a survey which asked questions about their experiences with the technology, such as time spent managing their child’s glucose, its practical use and any benefits to sleep quality.

What did they find?

From the survey, 85 per cent said they spent less time performing tasks to manage their child’s diabetes, for example carrying out finger prick tests or calculating insulin. Ninety per cent of parents and caregivers also reported reduced stress levels and improved quality of sleep while their child was using the technology, with many noting that their child had fewer hypos and better glucose stability particularly overnight.

It’s therefore no surprise that a number of the responders said that wellbeing, for both the children and their families, had improved. Overall, the burden of managing type 1 in very young children was somewhat lifted, and 90 per cent of the people surveyed would recommend the artificial pancreas to others.

What does this mean for type 1?

For parents and caregivers of young children with type 1, managing blood glucose levels can be particularly demanding and a constant source of worry. This study shows that by automating the process of measuring blood glucose levels and administering insulin, the artificial pancreas both improves blood glucose control in very young children while providing them and their parents or caregivers with important quality of life benefits.

By alleviating some of the anxiety and lack of sleep that can be part and parcel of managing type 1 and reducing the time spent managing blood glucose levels, the artificial pancreas is a vital step towards easing the burden of type 1.

 

Working in the laboratory

Discover our research

Browse our world-class research projects that aim to cure treat or prevent type 1 diabetes

Find out more