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Intra-Aortic Balloon Counterpulsation Pump

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

An intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation pump (IABP) is a device used for a short time to help your heart work normally. You may need an IABP if you have severe heart failure or other heart problems. Healthcare providers will watch your condition and tell you when the IABP should be removed.

Heart Chambers


Before your procedure:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine put into the area where the catheter will be inserted. It is used to numb the area and dull the pain. You may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure.

During your procedure:

  • A small incision will be made through the skin in your groin and into the artery beneath the skin. If the artery in your groin cannot be used, the catheter may be put in through your chest and into your aorta. Your healthcare provider will check that the catheter is in the correct place.
  • A plastic graft (small tube) will be put into the artery to hold it open. A catheter will be threaded through the artery until it enters the aorta, and is near your heart. When the catheter is in place, the graft will be removed, and the catheter will be left in your aorta. The end of the catheter will be secured to your skin to stop it from coming out. The area will be covered with bandages.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Do not move your leg. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. When healthcare providers see that you are okay, you may be taken to your hospital room.

  • Bandages covering your stitches keep the area clean and dry to help prevent infection. Healthcare providers may remove the bandage soon after your procedure to check the area.
  • You will need to lie flat in bed for a few hours. If the catheter was inserted in your groin, you will need to keep your leg straight and not move it.
  • Medicines may be given to prevent or treat pain or a bacterial infection. Blood thinners may be given to prevent blood clots.


You may develop bleeding, an infection, or trouble breathing when the catheter is inserted. You may develop a life-threatening blood clot. Blood flow to your leg may get blocked. This could cause the tissue in your leg to die. The tissue may need to be removed. The IABP balloon may burst inside your aorta, and the air inside the balloon may leak out. You may have chronic (long-term) pain, even with an IABP. The IABP may not help your heart condition.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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