Patients with the most common form of diabetes could experience a more comfortable time in hospital following a successful trial into controlling blood sugar levels.
The study found people using a so-called artificial pancreas, a closed-loop delivery system which minimises a patient’s involvement in maintaining glucose control, spent an average of 24.2% more time with blood glucose levels in the target range compared with those receiving insulin injections.
They also had lower average blood glucose levels, which was achieved without increasing their daily insulin dose and without an increased risk of blood glucose levels falling to dangerously low levels known as hypos, according to the research.
The artificial pancreas trial was carried out at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, and at another facility in the Swiss capital of Bern.
It worked by continuously monitoring blood glucose levels to calculate the amount of insulin required through a device such as a tablet or mobile phone, and then automatically delivered insulin through a pump.
The pilot is seen as significant because most research to date has focused on the development of the artificial pancreas for people with Type 1 diabetes.
Lead researcher Dr Roman Hovorka, from the University of Cambridge, said: “The results surpassed our expectations.
“We did not realise the difference the artificial pancreas can make for people on insulin staying in hospital.
“Further research is needed to understand the wider benefits of improved glucose control during hospital stay.”
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not react to insulin, creating an inability to control blood sugar levels.
The chronic condition is linked to obesity, lifestyle and genetics, and is more likely to be diagnosed in older people.
Treatment involves controlling diet or medication, unlike Type 1 diabetes, which is typically treated with injections of insulin as the body produces none.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, which funded the trial, said: “We know that people living with Type 2 diabetes experience poorer outcomes and longer stays in hospital compared to people who do not have Type 2 diabetes.
“Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition that needs to be carefully managed, so it is vital that people with the condition receive first-class care in hospital.
“This important study shows that the artificial pancreas system could can help people with Type 2 diabetes to manage their condition while they’re in hospital, building the evidence needed to offer this type of support to people in hospitals in the future.”
The trial findings will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an American Diabetes Association meeting in Florida on Monday.