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How to Choose an Ambulatory Infusion Pump

If you are a primary oncology clinician looking to select the infusion pump that fits your needs, but you are not sure where to start, you’re in the right place.

The Basics

What is an ambulatory infusion pump? What types exist? What should you look for when buying one? We’ll answer these questions and more below so you can feel confident when treating your patients.

What Is an Ambulatory Infusion Pump?

An infusion pump is a medical device made to deliver fluids into a patient’s body in a controlled manner. An ambulatory infusion pump is designed to allow patients to move freely and go about their daily lives. They serve as a practical alternative to the pole-mounted pumps used in a hospital setting.

Types of Ambulatory Pumps

Ambulatory infusion pumps are not one-size-fits-all devices. Depending on the therapy your patient is receiving, some pumps may be better suited for the purpose than others. Multiple types exist, and they generally fall into one of two categories:

These are infusion pumps built to operate within a specific infusion rate range, allowing them to administer only therapies that fall within that range. This serves as a safety measure preventing accidental over-infusion. WalkMed’s 350VL infusion pump, for example, was specifically built for 5-FU cancer therapy. Often these pumps are smaller, lighter, and quieter to operate than multi-therapy pumps, making them preferable to use whenever possible. They’re also built to handle lower infusion rates that might be outside the scope of multi-therapy pumps.
These ambulatory infusion pumps are designed to switch from one modality to another to deliver a variety of therapies. These can include antibiotic therapies, patient-controlled analgesic (PCA) therapies for pain, total parenteral nutrition (TPN), and more. Although these pumps are versatile, they can’t cover every therapy that exists. Due to safety and technical limitations, the pumps that are made to accommodate for high infusion rates can not cover very low infusion rates at the same time.

What to Consider When Choosing an Ambulatory Pump

There are many factors that come into play when deciding on the right ambulatory infusion pump. Here are some guidelines you can use to make an informed decision.


Consider whether the pump will stand the test of time. Pumps that are more robust reduce the cost of ownership, since you’ll spend less money on repairs.

Ease of Use

How easy is it to program the pump? Are the bags easy to fill and the administration sets easy to install? These are important questions to think about when selecting an infusion pump.

Size and Weight

The design of the pump you’re considering should fit its intended use. Ambulatory pumps should be relatively small and portable so people can easily carry them and conduct their daily activities while undergoing infusions.

Battery Life

For ambulatory pumps, long battery life is essential. A depleted battery mid-infusion forces a patient to figure out how to change the battery themselves or requires you to send medical staff to do it for them. Look for pumps with a longer battery life that will allow treatment to continue uninterrupted.

Noise Level

Some infusion pumps may not seem loud at first, but consider the patient when they take the pump home and place it on their nightstand while they sleep. A noisy pump can be a serious issue for a sensitive patient.

Safety Systems

An ambulatory infusion pump should come standard with alarms for common issues and occurrences like occlusion, set loading error, low battery, and end of infusion. Pumps should also be selected based on the flow rate for the therapy they will be used for. This will help to prevent patient overdose.

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