Intraaortic Balloon Pump

Why is the doctor performing this procedure?

To increase blood flow to the heart and body, and to decrease the heart's workload.

What is the procedure?

Intraaortic balloon pump, commonly called IABP, is a catheter-based procedure reserved for patients with severe heart disease (e.g. heart attack, congestive heart failure, etc.), and/or while waiting for a heart transplant.

The procedure requires placement of a catheter with an intraaortic balloon attached. The balloon is inserted into an artery, usually in the groin (the femoral artery) and then advanced into the largest artery in your body, the aorta. Next, the catheter is connected to a computer that will control the inflation/deflation, timing and pressure, so that the balloon will inflate when the heart muscle relaxes and deflate just before the heart pumps again. This process is called "counterpulsation." which assists your heart as follows:

The pump at your bedside inflates the balloon in your aorta when the heart is relaxed, allowing the heart to receive more oxygen rich blood without working so hard. Then, just before your heart gets ready to pump this oxygenated blood, the pump deflates the balloon. This creates a drop in pressure within your aorta, assisting your heart in pumping the blood more easily throughout your body.

Once your heart stabilizes and can function properly on its own, the IABP and catheter are removed, and pressure is applied to stop bleeding.

IABP is typically used for the following situations:

  • During severe angina episodes
  • Before, during, or after open-heart surgery (in certain patients only)
  • Before, during, or after balloon angioplasty (in certain patients only)
  • During emergency situations, including heart attack and congestive heart failure
  • During the waiting period for a donor heart for heart transplantation

Where is the procedure performed?

Intraaortic balloon pump is usually done in the Cardiac Cath Lab. Occasionally, it is performed in the Operating Room (OR) or the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

How long does this procedure take?

The placement of the IABP takes about 30 minutes. The catheter and IABP are then left in place until no longer needed—usually a few days.