An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is placed inside the heart to reduce how hard the heart needs to work to pump blood. The device inflates a small balloon right after the heart pumps, and deflates it just before the heart beats again to provide the needed pressure to help circulate blood to the heart and the rest of the body.

The Cooper Heart Institute has a large and renowned team of physicians who offer world class cardiac care and have extensive experience performing intra-aortic balloon pump.

Understanding the procedure

A cardiologist from the Cooper Heart Institute inserts a thin, flexible hollow tube (catheter) in a blood vessel that leads to the heart in the inner thigh. The actual balloon is situated at the tip of the catheter. Using an X-ray camera, the doctor guides the catheter into the main artery in the heart (aorta), and properly places the balloon.

The device is connected through the catheter to a pump that controls the inflation and deflation. The pump stands at the person’s bedside and is carefully timed to inflate and deflate the balloon in rhythm with the beat of the heart. The patient will feel the machine pulse as it makes the balloon open and close.

When placement is completed, the patient goes immediately to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to be carefully monitored. The balloon catheter is removed as soon as either the heart is able to function more strongly on its own, or the problem is treated through surgery or medication.

Indications for the procedure

An intra-aortic balloon pump is only used temporarily for emergency cardiac support conditions, such as after a heart attack, for severe heart failure, or while someone is waiting for heart surgery.