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Intra-Aortic Balloon Counterpulsation Pump

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is an intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation pump (IABP)?

An 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. An IABP may also be used to support your heart before or after you have heart surgery. The IABP catheter balloon inflates when your heart is filling with blood. This allows more blood and oxygen to go into your heart. The balloon deflates just before your heart pumps blood out. This sends more blood and oxygen out to your body. Healthcare providers will watch your condition and tell you when the IABP should be removed.

Heart Chambers

How do I prepare to have an IABP inserted?

  • Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of the procedure. Arrange to have someone drive you home after you are discharged.
  • Tell your provider about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for the procedure, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.
  • Tell your provider if you have bleeding problems or are taking medicines such as blood thinners.
  • You may need tests to check your blood vessels.

What will happen when the IABP is inserted?

  • You will get medicine to prevent pain. 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. 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.

What should I expect after the IABP is inserted?

You will be taken to a room to rest. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. 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.

What are the risks of an IABP?

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.

Care Agreement

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. 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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Further information

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