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Infusion Pumps 101 | What are Infusion Pumps & More

Your common infusion pump questions answered

We like working with informed customers. It means you better understand the value that comes from working with AIV. Even if you work with medical instruments like infusion pumps every day, there might be basic questions you're afraid to ask colleagues for fear of looking out of touch. Or maybe it's been so long since you thought about some of these things that a refresher is welcome. These are the most common questions we come across, and we wanted to get the answers out there for our customers to refer to whenever they need.

Q: What are infusion pumps used for?

Infusion pumps deliver fluids such as medications or hormones to a patient’s circulatory system. They can be programmed to deliver set amounts of fluids over a set period of time, regulating the effects of the floods on the patient.

Q: How do infusion pumps work?

Contrary to their name, infusion pumps don’t actually pump. They use gravity to control the flow rate of fluids flowing from a bag, bottle, or syringe to a patient’s body. Large volumetric pumps are suitable for large amounts of fluid whereas syringe pumps are suitable for small amounts of fluid.
A large volumetric pump is typically positioned above a patient's head, using drip chambers to reduce the natural gravitational flow.
Varying slightly in syringe size, a syringe pump holds a syringe plunger in place, while syringe grippers control the speed of the plunger to slow the volumetric flow of the fluid, reducing the flow rate.

Q: How are infusion pumps connected to a patient?

To set up and connect an infusion pump to a patient, there are a few main components: 

  • A drip stand

  • The infusion pump (of course)

  • Tubing

  • The cannula or catheter that connects the needle to the patient’s body 

A bag, bottle, or syringe (in a syringe pump) containing fluid is attached to the infusion pump using tubing. That tubing is then connected to the patient and attached to their body using a cannula or a catheter.

Q: Are there different types of infusion pumps?

Some infusion pumps are designed for specific purposes. For example, an insulin pump is used in the homes of patients who suffer from diabetes to deliver insulin medication to them directly.

But the action is generally the same whether the pump is used to deliver antibiotics, saline, pain relievers, insulin, chemotherapy drugs, or other solutions.

Q: What are ambulatory infusion pumps?

An ambulatory infusion pump is a portable or wearable device. They’re helpful in scenarios when a patient is mobile but requires ongoing treatment such as antibiotics or chemotherapy.
They’re generally smaller than infusion pumps you’d find in an emergency department. As you might guess, they’re used in ambulances, air ambulances, and other forms of medical transport, earning their name of “ambulatory” pumps.

Q: How are infusion pumps cleaned?

To clean an infusion pump, open any doors or covers and scrub all interior and exterior surfaces with disinfectant solution and a disposable cleaning cloth, making sure to remove any blood or fluids. Do not spray disinfectant solution directly onto the pump. Instead, always apply your disinfectant to the cloth.

Q: Where are infusion pumps commonly found in hospitals?

Infusion pumps are typically used at the bedside of a patient. Ambulatory pumps can be attached to patients who are mobile and still undergoing hospital treatment. They’re also found in emergency departments, operating rooms, and anywhere patients might require fluid infusions.

Q: How many infusion pumps does a hospital need?

The number of infusion pumps each hospital needs will vary based on the number of beds they have and the volume of patients coming through emergency units. They’re used commonly in most hospitals because they can automate fluid transfers and reduce margins of error, freeing up a clinician to attend to other patients.

Q: Why is it important to check the programming of infusion pumps?

Infusion pumps can be programmed to automate infusion processes based on a patient’s age or condition. Most infusion pumps allow the user to save or refresh patient data when starting up the pump, backing up patient information until it's manually cleared. Typically, infusion pumps ask a series of programming questions during the start-up process to ensure the settings are optimized for each unique patient.

Programming settings usually include a drug library and hard and soft stops for medication administration based on fluid type and flow rate.

Q: Why do infusion pumps break down frequently?

Infusion pumps don’t break down frequently, but they can break down due to software defects, mechanical or electrical failures (such as power outages), alarm errors, and user interface issues.

Infusion pumps don’t break down frequently, but they can break down due to software defects, mechanical or electrical failures (such as power outages), alarm errors, and user interface issues.

To avoid these defects, make sure that:

  • You have access to a backup power supply in the event of power failure.

  • You attend to all inaudible and audible alarm errors (e.g. clamped tubing).

  • You carefully consult the instruction manual before using the pump.

  • You send the pump for repair if you suspect damage or defects.

Q: What types of defects occur with infusion pumps?

If an infusion pump is dropped or stored unsafely, it can result in damage that leads to under-infusion or over-infusion, making it unsafe for both the user and the patient.

The plastic casing of an infusion pump is also prone to cracking, which can cause fluids to enter the casing, leading to all kinds of programming malfunctions.

Users may also experience fires, sparks, charring, or shocks if units are plugged or unplugged unsafely from a unit.

Rarely, the battery within the infusion pump might overheat, resulting in battery failure. It is recommended to replace the battery of an infusion pump during routine maintenance

Q: How do you fix Baxter Sigma infusion pumps?

You send them to us! We’ve been repairing Baxter Sigma infusion pumps to OEM standards for as long as Baxter has been making them.

AIV offers repair services for most popular infusion pump models and its own series of hospital-grade power cords, AC adapters, and patented power distribution solutions options to use in conjunction with your infusion pump equipment. 

Getting more life out of your existing instruments is often more economical than upgrading, especially if you have a large system revolving around instruments everyone in your health care setting is comfortable with. 

We have customers all over the world. So contact us today to keep your instruments running the way you need them

About the Author

Laura Collier

Laura Collier has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Florida. She is the Marketing Manager at AIV, Inc.

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Infusion Pumps 101: What are infusion pumps used for?