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What Are Jet Insulin Injectors?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 01, 2020

Insulin is a hormone that helps your body move sugar from the blood into your tissues. When you have diabetes, your body may not make or use insulin the right way, so you may need to take insulin shots to control your blood sugar.

The usual ways to do this are to use traditional insulin shots and insulin pens. Both use needles. Instead of a needle, a jet insulin injector uses a high-pressure blast of air or a spring to inject a dose of insulin through your skin.

Are They Effective?

Research suggests that jet insulin injectors work well and may be even more effective than other insulin delivery systems.

A 2017 study compared an insulin jet injector with an insulin pen in people with type 2 diabetes. The jet injector group used two types of insulin: regular human insulin and rapid-acting synthetic insulin. Regardless of insulin type, the jet injector worked better than the pen at controlling both blood sugar and insulin levels. In some cases, the jet injector lowered the subjects’ blood sugar a little too much, but they were able to get back to a normal level when they had something to eat.

A 2013 study offers similar insight. Researchers found that a jet injector lessened post-meal blood sugar spikes more than a conventional insulin pen.

How to Use a Jet Injector

Jet injectors usually have two or three parts. A spring-powered device has two parts: the injector (which looks like a large pen) and a disposable syringe. An air-powered device has three parts: the injector, disposable syringe, and an air cartridge that uses carbon dioxide (CO2).

To use a jet injector, you:

  • Draw insulin into the syringe.
  • Put the syringe into the injector.
  • Hold the device at a 90% angle at your injection site.
  • Press a button to release the insulin.

Cost and Insurance

Insurance coverage for supplies for people with diabetes varies across providers and plans. You may find that insurance covers many supplies -- from test strips to blood glucose monitors to insulin pens. But don’t count on it to cover a jet insulin injector.

Insurance typically covers “medically necessary” medical equipment. A jet injector might not make the cut when there are cheaper, effective options, like conventional insulin shots. Without insurance, jet insulin injectors can cost hundreds of dollars.

But if you’re physically unable to use a needle, your insurance company may consider a jet injector to be medically necessary and cover it.

Pros and Cons

Talk to your doctor about which insulin delivery system is right for you. As you weigh your options, consider these pros and cons of a jet insulin injector.

Pros

  • Very effective
  • May appeal to those who don’t like traditional needles
  • Potentially cleaner than traditional needles (if you fail to replace them)
  • May cause less pain and skin injury than insulin pens
  • No needle disposal issues

Cons

  • More expensive than insulin pens and injections
  • Relatively large device
  • May lower blood sugar too much
  • Not widely available

How to Choose an Injector

Jet injectors are medical devices. They all deliver liquid medication, but they don’t all work with insulin. Most jet injectors are used in health care settings, especially for vaccines, including the flu vaccine.

Your health care team can let you know which jet injectors on the market can deliver insulin.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

MedlinePlus: “Human Insulin Injection.”

Diabetes.co.uk: “Insulin jet injectors.”

Comfort-In.com: “Jet Injector Comparison Table.”

Medicine: “Comparison of jet injector and insulin pen in controlling plasma glucose and insulin concentrations in type 2 diabetic patients.”

Diabetes Care: “Needle-Free Jet Injection of Rapid-Acting Insulin Improves Early Postprandial Glucose Control in Patients With Diabetes.”

Aetna: “Diabetes Tests, Programs and Supplies.”

CDC: “Flu Vaccination by Jet Injector.”

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