Posted on Wednesday 12th November 2014
A new glucose monitoring device has just become available in the UK. This device is called the Freestyle Libre. The system comes in two parts. The first part is a white disc approximately the size of a 50 pence piece. This disc is attached to the upper arm. It has a small needle underneath which has to be inserted into the skin using a specially designed insertion device. The needle is then withdrawn leaving a small flexible sensor in the skin on underside of the disc. This sensor continuously measures blood glucose levels. The disc is very sticky and attaches firmly to the skin where it remains for two weeks. If the device is going to be used continuously then a new disc has to be inserted after the old one is removed.
The second part is the scanning device which looks similar to current blood testing devices. This sensing device can simply be held close to the white disc sensor and give a readout of all the blood sugar levels over the previous eight hours. This readout can be taken through clothing while the scanning device is up to four centimetres away from the sensor.
This is clearly a potentially useful development in terms of glucose sensing. It gives the wearer the ability to check very frequent glucose measurements and look at patterns over the previous 8 hours without the need for repeated finger prick tests. This may help facilitate changes to insulin regimes or warn of times when glucose values have fallen too low eg: during sleeping hours.
There are two issues which need to be mentioned. The first is that the sensor measures glucose in the interstitial fluid which is the fluid between cells under the skin. Current finger prick testing measures blood sugar values. This is important since changes in the glucose in the interstitial fluid lags behind changes in blood sugar levels. If the blood sugar level is falling quickly then then wearers may develop hypoglycaemia before the sensor detects low sugar values in the interstitial fluid. Finger prick blood tests may need to be done in circumstances where hypoglycaemia is a high risk or if the wearer has symptoms which do not match the system readouts.
The second issue is that the device is not currently available on the NHS and currently costs £159.95 for a starter pack consisting of a scanning device and two sensors. Each sensor costs £57.95. This high cost will severely limit its use in the UK.
More information and details on how to purchase the device can be obtained from the company website.