WASHINGTON -

Federal regulators have approved a first-of-a-kind implant that can help some diabetes patients manage their disease, freeing them from the ordeal of constantly monitoring their blood sugar.
    
The so-called artificial pancreas continuously measures blood sugar and automatically delivers insulin, a hormone needed to turn food into energy.
    
The device from Medtronic is approved for patients with Type 1 diabetes, a condition diagnosed during childhood that prevents insulin production. Those patients face increased risks of dangerously high blood-sugar levels, heart disease and many other health problems.
    
Type 1 diabetes patients now have to manage their insulin through injections or a drug pump.
    
The new MiniMed device consists of a drug pump, a sensor that measures blood sugar and a catheter that delivers the insulin.