As of Sunday evening at 9pm, I’m on the Navigator! That would be the newest continuous glucose monitoring system from Abbott Diabetes, approved by the FDA this past March. Approval took much longer than expected, while the company had been promising me a close look at the product for over a year, in part because I’d just missed out on participating in the local study. Anyway I’m hooked up now, and quite excited to share my thoughts!
I spent about an hour and a half going through the basics with the company’s clinical science manager, who happens to live in the next town and was kind enough to make a house call. It was an easy setup because: 1) I’ve used two other CGM systems before, and 2) I’m a long-time FreeStyle user, so totally familiar with their test strips, lancets, etc. The latter probably makes me a little biased toward this CGM system; I loved the look and feel and perceived ease-of-use right away.
Here are some of my first impressions:
Well, the first thing that hit me was the packaging; nobody eating carrot cake on the front of the box. And they were pretty sparing with the excess cardboard and foam. Both pluses right there for my “feel good” factor, although utterly irrelevant to system performance
The default view of the main screen features big, clear numbers, not graphs. If you want to see the graphs, you have to push a series of buttons to enter the “Reports” menu, then select “Line Graphs” and choose from 2, 4, 6, 12, or 24 hour views. I’m not sure yet whether I like the fact that I’m only seeing a single number most of the time.
A heck of a lot fewer calibrations required! You only need to conduct four calibrations in the five-day wear period — and they are super-easy because the Navigator has a FreeStyle fingerstick meter built right in. You just stick a test strip into the little port on the lower left corner and feed it some blood.
There’s nothing to recharge. The “Transmitter” (Abbott’s term for the piece you wear on your body that houses the sensor) takes a Silver Oxide 357 HC watch battery, and the “Receiver” (controller unit) takes two triple-A Energizer batteries. But here’s the catch: estimated battery life for the Transmitter is 30 days, and the Receiver is 60 days. If the batteries die on you mid-session, you lose the current sensor. So you have to be diligent about watching battery life. Ugh.
The Navigator Transmitter is quite comfortable, if slightly large. The insertion process differs from both the DexCom and Guardian, too. DexCom’s got that nice mini-size sensor (or “Transmitter”), and a pretty easy and painless snap insertion with a smallish disposal plastic piece. Guardian’s insertion is nastier, with that gi-normous needle I hated, but the insertion device is reusable, which is good (less trash). The Navigator, on the other hand, has a largish insertion device that is fully disposable (shown here). You have to push really hard, and it makes a rather unpleasant noise during insertion.
So my very first morning with the Navigator was a workout day. I calibrated when the thing woke me up at 7am, as required. But I was a little late getting to my breakfast, so the second required calibration, at 9am, was actually rejected: “Cal Failed.” Huh? Turns out the Navigator automatically rejects any attempted calibration when you are “trending,” i.e. when your blood sugar is moving rapidly upwards or downwards.
(hey, that was right after breakfast!)
I think this is a very clever and important feature, as I’m sure my many ill-timed calibrations contributed to my frustration with the DexCom. Calibrations should always be done when your BG level is steady, I have learned, since feeding any CGM system numbers that are moving targets only confuses it.
Right now I’m scrolling through the graphs and checking my post-meal peaks: 231 after breakfast; 208 after lunch (cookies, yeah). I’m loving the way this thing looks and feels and seems to be in pretty tight synchronization with my fingerstick meter (accuracy, hooray!) But I find a can barely see a darn thing without activating the back light each time I pick it up. You can’t change the settings to keep the backlight on, presumably because that would run the battery down way too fast. Dern. That might bother me.
More updates on Flying with Navigator coming here soon.