Skip to Content

Intra-aortic Balloon Counterpulsation Pump


What is an intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation pump?

An intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation pump (IABP) is a device that is used for a short time to help your heart work normally. The pump has a flexible, inflatable catheter (thin tube) with a balloon on its end. It also has a gas container and a device that inflates (fills) and deflates (empties) the balloon. Monitors that show how the heart is working may be connected to the pump. The IABP allows more blood to flow into your heart and more blood to be pumped out to your body.

Why may I need an IABP?

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 you have heart surgery, such as coronary artery bypass graft or angioplasty. The IABP may also be used to monitor pressure changes inside your aorta before the surgery. The aorta is a large blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your body. The IABP may also be used to help your heart work after you have heart surgery.

How is the IABP inserted?

  • You will get medicine to decrease or prevent pain during the 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, your healthcare provider will choose a different blood vessel. The catheter may be put in through your chest and into your aorta. Your healthcare provider will use a type of x-ray called fluoroscopy to watch the catheter as it is inserted. He will also use it to 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.

How does the IABP work?

  • The IABP catheter balloon inflates when your heart is filling with blood during a heartbeat. This increases the pressure inside your heart chambers, allowing more blood and oxygen to go into your heart. The balloon deflates just before your heart pumps blood out during the heartbeat. This sends more blood and oxygen out to your body. Blood flow to your heart increases and takes some of the workload off your heart. The balloon fills and empties quickly, keeping pace with your heartbeat. It may be timed by monitors inside the balloon, a pacemaker, or a speed set by your healthcare provider.
  • The IABP can help blood flow and send more oxygen to your heart and your body. This may decrease problems such as fatigue and lack of energy. It can help you recover faster and better after heart surgery. Healthcare providers will watch your condition and tell you when the IABP should be removed.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have shaking chills or a fever.
  • You have burning pain in the catheter site.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • and any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • Your foot or leg is cold, pale, has no feeling, or is painful.
  • The catheter site is bleeding, or it has pus or a bad smell coming from it.
  • Your catheter has started to come out, or has fallen all of the way out.

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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.