Intra-Aortic balloon pump


An Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump (IABP) is a medical device designed to assist the heart in pumping more blood efficiently. Resembling a long, slender balloon, this apparatus plays a crucial role in situations where the heart is unable to contract and relax effectively on its own.

The IABP operates in synchrony with the heart’s natural pumping process. Normally, during a cardiac contraction, your heart pumps blood into the circulatory system, and as it relaxes, it allows blood to flow in and fill its chambers. This intricate coordination is controlled by a device connected to the IABP, which regulates when the balloon should inflate and deflate. The inflation process involves the release of small bursts of helium to blow up the balloon. Helium is chosen for its safety, as even in the rare event of a leak, it poses no harm or adverse effects to the patient.

The deflation of the IABP balloon serves to enhance the circulation of blood throughout the body. The inflation helps improving blood flow not only to the heart but also to the veins and arteries in the limbs, such as the arms, legs, hands, and feet.

To insert the IABP, a doctor typically accesses the aorta, the main artery responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Specifically, the device is placed within the thoracic aorta, the section of the artery that traverses the chest. This strategic placement ensures that the IABP effectively supports and augments the heart’s pumping function.

An IABP is only in place for a short period of time. The device is usually used by doctors while you are in the hospital following surgery or a cardiac event.

Reasons for undergoing the procedure

If your heart isn’t pumping enough blood through your circulatory Cardiogenic shock can occur as a result of:

  • Heart attacks
  • Myocarditis
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Acute congestive heart failure
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart defects
  • Unstable angina

Following cardiac treatments like a Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) to clear a blocked artery, certain patients could require an IABP.


A number of variables, such as your age and general health, affect your risks. Generally speaking, an IABP may cause the following risks:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Stroke
  • Damage to an artery
  • Improper balloon placement, which may result in kidney damage or other issues
  • A ruptured balloon that may cause blood clotting
  • Low platelet counts can lead to excessive bleeding because they make your blood clot less effectively.

Before the procedure

You will be sleeping during the procedure if you are already undergoing cardiac surgery when your doctor installs the IABP. If not, your doctor could give your local anesthesia, or numbing medication, to lessen the likelihood that you will experience pain during the surgery.

During the procedure

When placing an IABP, your doctor will:

  • Insert a catheter—a hollow tube—into one of your leg’s arteries.
  • Passes the balloon via the catheter.
  • Guides the balloon and catheter up to your aorta using X-ray imaging.
  • The intra-aortic balloon pump is connected to a device that controls the balloon’s inflation and deflation.

After the procedure

Chest discomfort can be the symptom following the placement of an IABP. Fortunately, this discomfort typically resolves within a few minutes.

Throughout the duration of IABP treatment, you will be required to remain in a bed with your head slightly elevated. The catheter in your leg will still be in place. If you wish to prevent the balloon from shifting, it’s important to keep your leg straight.

Typically, after the insertion of an intra-aortic balloon pump, your doctor will prescribe heparin. Heparin is a blood-thinning medication, which helps prevent the formation of blood clots.


In most cases, patients use an IABP for a few days. After this initial period, your doctor may choose to temporarily halt the pump to assess your heart’s response. If your heart demonstrates efficient blood-pumping capability on its own during this evaluation, the doctor may opt to remove the IABP.

However, in exceptionally severe situations, the need for an IABP may persist until an alternative solution, such as the availability of a transplantable donor heart, becomes viable.