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Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump Therapy

What is intra-aortic balloon pump therapy?

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a type of therapeutic device. It helps your heart pump more blood. You may need it if your heart is unable to pump enough blood for your body.
The IABP consists of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. Attached to the tip of the catheter is a long balloon. This is called an intra-aortic balloon, or IAB. The other end of the catheter attaches to a computer console. This console has a mechanism for inflating and deflating the balloon at the proper time when your heart beats.
Your heart pumps oxygenated blood and nutrients to all parts of your body. Blood leaves the heart through the arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood. The outer walls of the heart also contain arteries. These are called the coronary arteries. Through these vessels, the heart receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
When the heart contracts, it sends blood out to the body. As it relaxes, blood flows into the coronary arteries to bring oxygen to the heart. An IABP allows blood to flow more easily into your coronary arteries. It also helps your heart pump more blood with each contraction. The balloon is inserted into your aorta. The aorta is the very large artery leaving your heart. In many cases, this procedure is done through a small cut on the inside of your upper leg.
From there, the IABP can start to do its work. The balloon is set to inflate when the heart relaxes. It pushes blood flow back toward the coronary arteries. They may not have been receiving enough blood without the pump. When the heart contracts, the balloon deflates. That allows the heart to pump more blood out to the body while using less energy. The device continues to inflate and deflate until it is removed.
An IABP is a short-term treatment. You may need it until your heart condition improves or until you can receive a more permanent treatment. Its use is rapidly growing.

Why would I need intra-aortic balloon pump therapy?

IABP therapy is used to treat cardiogenic shock. That’s when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body.
Some heart problems can cause cardiogenic shock. These include:

  • Unstable angina
  • Heart attack
  • Certain abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart failure
  • Heart defects

  • What are the risks for intra-aortic balloon pump therapy?

    IABP therapy can be very helpful. It can sometimes even be life-saving. But it does have some risks. These include:

  • Damage from the lack of blood flow to a limb (ischemia)
  • Injury to an artery
  • Rupture of the balloon
  • Incorrect position of the balloon, which might cause injury to the kidneys or other problems
  • Low platelet count, which might cause excess bleeding because your blood doesn’t clot as well
  • Infection
  • Stroke

  • What happens after intra-aortic balloon pump therapy?

    You may need to stay on the pump for several days. Your cardiologist will monitor you. He or she may temporarily turn the pump off to see how you respond. Or he or she may set it to inflate and deflate with only every 2nd or 4th heartbeat. If your heart continues to pump well on its own, the IABP therapy may be stopped .Your cardiologist will then remove the catheter and the attached balloon.