From my experience, it seems that Medtronic has a shortage of Guardian Link transmitters. If you can, you may want to order a replacement early. I had to wait over 5 weeks and there have been numerous posts in the Medtronic 670G, 770G, 780G Support Group on Facebook about the delay.
This is likely because the transmitter contains a chip and there have been chip shortages due to supply disruptions from the pandemic. The only news article I’ve found about this is from August. The news story doesn’t mention transmitters specifically but it does say that “semiconductor shortages will linger.”
The transmitter is the thing that connects to the Guardian Link CGM sensor. It’s responsible for sending the sensor glucose reading to the insulin pump, so that the pump can automatically adjust insulin dosage. It requires charging every week, and because it has a rechargeable battery, it has a limited life span. It has a one year warranty.
I’m on my third transmitter now. When my first transmitter failed, Medtronic replaced it for free. I wrote a blog post about it – see the story “My Transmitter Died and I’m Blue.” Medtronic provided very good customer service and I received a replacement transmitter a couple of days later. However, even for that short time period, it was very stressful to be without.
Without a transmitter, the Medtronic Minimed System (670G or the newer 770G or 780G models) can not be used in auto mode, so it depends on having proper basal rates set. It also means that as a user, you have no idea what your blood glucose level is at, and therefore need to do finger pricks to test. A blood glucose reading with a finger prick gives a single moment in time reading, but it doesn’t provide any trend arrows, so there is no information about how fast your blood glucose is changing. It provides inferior information to a CGM.
Although many people do use insulin pumps with no integrated sensor, it’s a much harder way to manage diabetes, in my opinion. Furthermore, for a person using auto mode, the settings in manual mode may not be correct or tuned well. I know that my doctor wanted to get me into auto mode quickly. My basal settings are OK, but I refined the manual mode settings on my own, and I think it would be pretty common for a person to not have manual settings configured well, if they always rely on auto mode.
It’s definitely possible that you would need to work with your doctor to improve the manual mode settings. A transmitter failure is a reason to spend time getting the basal rates configured well. But, that takes time, and this is a huge, stressful, interrupt! Furthermore, carb ratios are often configured differently for auto mode than they would be for manual mode.
Without a working CGM, there are no alerts for high or low blood glucose. The chance of having hypoglycemia is increased, as is the likelihood of having higher blood glucose as well.
Personally, my insulin needs vary greatly day to day, depending on a myriad of factors (amount of exercise, amount of food, hormones, stress, general health, etc), so basal rates are never a “set it and forget it” type of thing. Managing Type 1 Diabetes is a lot of work and having a functioning CGM makes it a lot easier.
Order a New Transmitter before You Need it!
After having the experience of the transmitter dying, I decided that this time around, I would order a new transmitter before I needed one. I ordered a new one, waited 5 weeks, and received it…. and then my old transmitter ended up dying about 4 months later. Fortunately, I already had a back up transmitter, so no interrupt in my life, this time around.
What does a new transmitter cost?
Unfortunately, a new transmitter is not cheap. I see that Healthline says it costs $620. In my case, my insurance picked up part of the cost, but I still had to pay several hundred dollars.
How do I order a new transmitter?
You can call Medtronic. Their phone number is on the bottom of your insulin pump.
You may also be able to log into Medtronic’s Diabetes Shop and place the order there. Try navigating to the Device History screen and see if there’s a button to request a new transmitter there.
What can I do if I can’t get a new transmitter?
If you do get stuck waiting, you could discuss with your doctor about getting another CGM to use in the meantime. Other CGMs won’t be able to connect to your pump, but at least they will give you a continuous glucose reading, and the trend arrows you’re used to. The Freestyle Libre may be one back up option. I actually have an old Libre in my closet from back before I used Medtronic — I’m saving this Libre for emergencies! It has expired, but I’m hopeful it will work past its expiration date. (Note: Not all Libre models have alarms, so if that’s important to you, confirm before purchasing.)
In summary, it seems that shortages are still a thing, and I wanted you to be aware. See my previous blog post about supply chain disruptions and long waits for diabetes medical devices.
I hope that this issue gets resolved shortly.
Success at Navigating Diabetes Tech Failure – Troubleshooting a Calibration did not Occur error message. Sometimes, transmitters act up, but the issue may be possible to resolve without needing to buy a new transmitter. Medtronic will help you troubleshoot the issue – just give them a call.
When You Can’t Afford a Continuous Glucose Monitor (Healthline) – Article discusses the costs of several popular CGMs and the real world stories about qualifying and insurance requirements.
Medtronic CEO says supply chain starting to stabilize as sales dropped, profits rose in Q1 (Med Tech Dive) Aug. 23, 2022 Medtronic CEO Geoff Martha said the company had been working through issues with resins and packaging, but semiconductor shortages will linger.
Chips for lives: Global chip shortages put production of life-saving medical devices and systems at risk (Philips) The severe global shortage of chips is disrupting the manufacturing of life-saving medical devices and systems. If we fail to take immediate action to address this shortage, it will impact patients in all corners of the world.
Medtronic expects diabetes unit’s struggles to continue as rivals grow sales, launch products (Med Tech Dive) The company forecasts revenue for the diabetes business to decrease by 8% to 10% in the first quarter of its fiscal year and by 6% to 7% for the full year.