Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump

Overview

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a mechanical device that helps the heart pump blood. It is a long, thin tube called a catheter with a balloon on the end. The balloon inflates and deflates in the same rhythm as the heart. It helps the heart pump blood to the body.

An IABP is usually for emergencies only. For example, it may be used to treat someone with an emergency heart valve problem or severe heart failure.

It is only used for a few hours or a few days. After that, long-term treatment is usually needed. This could be valve surgery or putting in a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

This IABP is inserted into the aorta. This is the large blood vessel that takes oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Why is it used?

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) might be used to stabilize a person who is in the hospital for acute mitral valve regurgitation or severe heart failure.

An IABP is only used for a short period of time (hours to days). A long-term treatment will likely be needed, such as valve surgery or the insertion of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

How does it work?

The intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) reduces the workload on your heart, allowing your heart to pump more blood. The IABP is placed inside your aorta, the artery that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The balloon on the end of the catheter inflates and deflates with the rhythm of your heart. This helps your heart pump blood to the body.

The IABP improves the function of only your left ventricle, since this is the chamber that pumps blood into your aorta. Here's how an IABP works:

  • After your left ventricle has finished contracting, the balloon inflates. This inflation helps increase blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body.
  • As your left ventricle is about to pump out blood, the balloon deflates. This deflation creates extra space in the aorta, allowing the heart to pump out more blood. This decreases the workload on the heart.

What are the risks?

Intra-aortic balloon pumps (IABPs) cause some side effects.

  • An IABP can cause an infection in your bloodstream if it is used for too long. An IABP can cause blood clots, which can lead to serious problems, such as a stroke. In rare cases, the balloon may overinflate and tear the aorta.
  • IABP treatment is also inconvenient. You must lie extremely still in your hospital bed if you have one of these devices in place.

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