Graphic Content: When Good Glucometers Go Bad

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ratingsymbol_mIf you’ve clicked on this post, it’s probably too late to warn you — but I’ll try anyway: this post contains blood. If you don’t enjoy the idea of a dripping wound on your thigh, you might want to click back to the recipe section.

It all started when I went to replace my continuous glucometer sensor last night (the same sensor to which I just declared my undying love). Yes, I know that the user manual for my Abbott Freestyle Navigator CGMarm says that you’re only supposed to wear the sensor on your stomach or upper arm. But wearing it on my stomach means competing for real estate with my pump infusion site and my Symlin injections (if my body were the New York State, my stomach would be Manhattan). And you know what, Abbott? When I wear it on my upper arm, it falls off, necessitating ridiculous taping measures such as the one shown here. Not exactly the look I’m going for. So I started wearing it on my thigh and have been loving it — fewer adhesive problems, a more subtle profile, no real interference with my clothes — fantastic!

Fast forward to last night: I carefully set the sensor down on my leg, smoothed the adhesive, and confidently punched the button that sends its tiny computer chip sensor thing into my flesh. I turned to throw the injection device out and when I looked back at my leg, I was shocked to see blood flowing down my thigh, dripping onto the tiled floor. Seriously — it was like I’d hit a sewer main. I grabbed some toilet paper from the bathroom and started sopping up the blood, wondering what size vessel I could possibly have it — this was not like I went for an artery in my groin.

It’s also not like I was sticking a nail into my leg — the sensor is flat, looks like a computer chip, and is smaller than the tip of my thumb (in the photo, the only part that’s sticking into me is the thin black antenna-like thing at the bottom left, which is so small you’ll probably have to lean in really close even to see it). It is smaller than the lead from a mechanical pencil — and yet, there I was, dripping on the floor. Remind me never to get shot.Sensor Chip

After a minute or two, the blood stopped — platelets in action — so I wiped off the floor and tried to decide what to do next.  A normal person probably then would have removed the sensor and tried a different spot — it’s supposed to measure glucose levels in your interstitial fluid, after all, not directly in a blood vessel. But as anyone with a CGM can probably understand, I didn’t want to — these things are expensive. As in, $3785-for-a-3-month-supply expensive (thank you, Blue Shield). I figured I’d wait till the next morning to see if I could get it to calibrate.

It’s now the next morning and, guess what? Clotted blood doesn’t conduct electrical signals too well; my calibrations all failed, and I had to replace the sensor. What’s more, I have a large bruise on my thigh indicating my disastrous attempt — I tried to take a picture of it, but it didn’t seem like the sort of photograph I’d want circulating on the internet. So instead, I’ll offer up this shot of my bloody tissue, taken shortly after I’d gotten it to stop bleeding. Like I said, this is not normal — except for one dramatic incident on my hip, where I bled so much it stained my pants, I do not usually end up with bloody wounds as a result of my diabetes care. But still, not my ideal way to spend a Saturday night.Blood!

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Comments (5)

  1. Catharine, sorry to hear about the gusher. I’ve not had any yet with my CGM, but I’m used to them with my insulin pump. I always change my infusion set near a box of Kleenex.
    Nice article in the New York Times, which is how I found my way here. I’ve added the site to my diabetes search tool, I’m amazed at the number of quality diabetes sites I find each week, it’s clear asweetlife has been going for a while, but this is my first time here.

  2. Catherine,
    We solved the back of the arm sticking problem by using Tegaderm 9546HP clear film dressing. Cut the oval shaped dressing in half, then, cut the transmitter shape out of each half and apply over the sensor tape. It sounds complicated but is very easy to do. You will need someone to help you though. Good Luck!

  3. Jennifer Davis at

    Sorry this happened, Catherine.  The same thing  just happened to us last week with a MM sensor in my daughter’s arm – it was a gusher!  We took it out and replaced it, and all was well, but what a mess :-(.

  4. nico at

    That’s what happens when you go with the Navi!!! the biggest needle, the biggest sensor means bigger wounds! I will highly suggest the Dexcom Seven better technology, smaller needle longer lasting sensor.

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