To your good health: Endocrinologists provide insulin-pump instructions
DEAR DR. ROACH: My wife is a Type 1 diabetic. She uses an insulin pump to control her blood sugar. She needs to have a PET scan. The prep for this test is fasting for six hours prior, along with no insulin for six hours. She was told to turn off her pump. Her blood glucose must be 150 or lower for the test. Even when she has fasted for 12 hours and her blood glucose is at 116, with her pump off, two hours later her BG is over 200. How do we get this test done? — S.L.H.
ANSWER: An insulin pump is a programmable device that continuously injects a variable amount of insulin just below the skin, where the insulin quickly enters the bloodstream. The pump is most often is used by Type 1 diabetics as it is often the most effective way of managing blood sugars, especially in people who have had trouble controlling their sugars with other means. The insulin used in an insulin pump normally is short-acting, so a few minutes after the pump is shut off, the blood sugar will start to rise. Since that is extremely dangerous in people with Type 1 diabetes, I would suggest a dose of longer-acting subcutaneous insulin before the pump is turned off.
I must emphasize that insulin pumps are prescribed and administered only by experts — almost always by endocrinologists who specialize in diabetes. Thus, only your wife’s endocrinologist be giving orders on the insulin pump and on subcutaneous injections (if her diabetologist agrees with me). A PET (positron emission tomography) scan is used to find areas of high metabolic activity, usually in people with suspected cancer. A radioactive analogue of sugar, usually fluorodeoxyglucose, is injected and will be taken up by cells that use a lot of sugar, which includes most cancer cells. A person needs to be very still after the injection, or the muscles will take up the FDG, which may confuse the results. However, the cells are less likely to take up FDG in people with high blood sugar, which is why the blood sugar needs to be well controlled (usually below 150, as you were told). I hope the results for your wife are favorable.
DEAR DR. ROACH: Recently I read in your column about a woman who wrote about her “total” hysterectomy. I was hoping that in your reply you would clarify the meaning of that phrase.
There is a common misunderstanding that if someone has a “total” hysterectomy, that includes the ovaries and/or tubes being removed as well the uterus. The word “hysterectomy” refers only to the uterus being removed. If someone has tubes removed, it is a salpingectomy; if she has ovaries removed, it is an oopherectomy. A total hysterectomy therefore really would mean the entire uterus (and only the uterus) being removed. Occasionally women undergo a “partial” hysterectomy, but that is more accurately called a supracervical hysterectomy (meaning, only the cervix part of the uterus remains). While this is certainly a mouthful of words, it is important for women to know exactly what was removed for the best subsequent gynecologic care. — Dr. Allison Duncan
ANSWER: I thank Dr. Duncan for writing, and I agree with her that a patient should know exactly what operation was done. It has serious implications on subsequent risk of diseases, including breast cancer and osteoporosis, as well as the obvious effect on cervical and ovarian cancers.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.