An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a temporary device that supports the heart. It increases the amount of blood available for the heart and makes it easier to pump blood out to the body.
The balloon is placed near the heart in a large artery called the aorta. A bedside machine inflates and deflates the balloon in rhythm with your heart. When the heart relaxes the balloon inflates to keep blood by the heart. When the heart begins to contract, the ballon deflates so that the blood can pass by the balloon to the rest of the body.
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An intra-aortic balloon pump is a temporary step to help stabilize someone with severe heart problems. It is used to bridge a gap until a damaged heart is able to recover function or to stabilize someone before a surgery or procedure. Situations when IABP may be needed may include: Acute heart failure—weakened heart that cannot pump blood efficientlyCardiogenic shock—persistent low blood pressure that lowers the amount of oxygen delivered to organsA severe heart attackMitral valve regurgitation—leaking or backflow of blood in the heart from the aortaInfections that affect heart function, such as myocarditisHigh-risk cardiac procedures
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: Improper balloon placementIncorrect timing of the machineLow blood flow to arms, legs, or feet, which can lead to tissue damageKidney damage from low blood flowExcessive bleeding
Heart attackBlood clotsInfectionAortic tear or ruptureNerve damageReaction to the dye injected through the catheter (if one is used)
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as: SmokingDrinkingChronic disease, such as diabetes or obesity
Test results from previous care will be reviewed by your doctors before the procedure. If necessary new tests may be done to make sure you are an appropriate candidate for IABP.
Leading up to the procedure: Talk to your doctor about your current medications. Certain medications may need to be stopped up to one week before the procedure.Let your doctor know of any allergies you have.
Local anesthesia will be used at the insertion site. You may be given a sedative to help you relax before the procedure.
An artery in the groin or arm will be selected for use. A local anesthetic will be injected into the area to numb the injection site.
An imaging device will be used during the procedure to guide the catheter, a small tube, to the appropriate place. A dye will help make clearer images. The catheter will be inserted into the artery of the leg or arm and passed through the artery until it reaches the aorta near the heart. Once the correct position is found, the balloon is passed through the catheter and placed in the correct position. The catheter is stitched at the entry point to keep it stable. A bandage is placed over the site.
The balloon catheter is connected to a bedside machine. This machine will control the inflation and deflation of the balloon in rhythm with your heart.
You will be taken to a recovery room and monitored.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications. The sensation of the balloon inflating and deflating will be felt.
The length of stay varies depending on the reason IABP is needed.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, you will be in the cardiac intensive care unit where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored.
Recovery may also include: Pain medicationsAntibiotics to prevent infectionMedication to prevent blood clots
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as: Washing their handsWearing gloves or masksKeeping the catheter insertion site clean and covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as: Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the sameReminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masksNot allowing others to touch the catheter insertion site
This procedure is done and delivered in a care setting. You will be monitored by medical staff for any complications.
Caple C; Pravikoff D. Intra-aortic BalloonPump: Timing of. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated July 4, 2014. Accessed February 24, 2015.
How is cardiogenic shock treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/shock/treatment. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Intra-aortic balloon pump. Cooper University Hospital website. Available at: http://www.cooperhealth.org/treatments/intra-aortic-balloon-pump. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Intra-aortic balloon pump. Texas Heart Institute website. Available at: http://www.texasheart.org/Research/Devices/iabp.cfm. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Richards S, Schub T. Intra-aortic balloon pump: Overview of patient management. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated July 11, 2014. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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