Thumbnail image of: Heart Catheterization: Illustration

Intraaortic Balloon Pump

What is an intraaortic balloon pump?

An intraaortic balloon pump (IABP) is a long tube (catheter) with a collapsed, sausage-shaped balloon at its tip. It helps the heart pump blood to the rest of the body. An IABP can sometimes be life saving.

When is it used?

The IABP provides temporary help to a severely weakened heart. It may be used to:

  • Help you get off a heart-lung bypass machine during or after heart surgery.
  • Improve blood flow to the heart while you wait for heart surgery.
  • Improve blood flow when your heart doesn’t pump well.
  • Help your heart while you wait for a heart transplant.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to prevent blood clots from forming during and after the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow any instructions your healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for tests or procedures.
  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for this procedure. The consent form will state the reason you are having an IABP, what happens during the procedure, and any possible benefits, risks, or alternatives.

What happens during the procedure?

This procedure is usually done at the hospital in intensive care (ICU).

Before the procedure you will be given medicine to help you relax, but you may be awake during the procedure. You will also be given a shot of local anesthetic to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted.

Your healthcare provider will put the catheter through your skin and into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Your provider will pass the catheter through blood vessels toward the heart, using X-rays to follow the position of the catheter. Your healthcare provider will move the catheter into your aorta, the large blood vessel in the middle of your chest. A pump attached to the end of the catheter will quickly inflate and deflate the balloon in time with your heartbeat.

Inflation of the balloon will increase blood flow to the body, particularly to your heart muscle. The balloon will deflate at the start of each heartbeat, quickly lowering blood pressure in the aorta so that the heart doesn’t have to work too hard.

What happens after the procedure?

The IABP can be used for weeks. Then the IABP will need to be removed because of the risk of blood clots and mechanical problems with the balloon. The longer the balloon is in place, the more dangerous it becomes. Because they need constant attention, people with IABPs stay in an intensive care unit.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • A blood clot could form around the catheter. A clot could block the blood vessel.
  • When the pump is left in for more than a few days, there is risk of infection.
  • You may have severe bleeding where the catheter was put into your blood vessel.
  • The catheter may damage an artery, for example, the vessel in the groin or arm where the catheter was inserted.
  • In rare cases you may have an allergic reaction to medicines used during the procedure.
  • While not common, a heart attack or stroke might be triggered by the procedure.

Ask your healthcare provider how the risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-10-22
Last reviewed: 2013-10-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

Our Patient Portal provides safe and secure online access to better communicate with your Tufts Medical Center Community Care doctor. This easy-to-use web tool is a convenient way to book appointments, request referrals, renew prescriptions, view medical records/test results and communicate with your healthcare provider from the privacy of your own computer.