What is an intra-aortic balloon pump?
Intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation or intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a type of therapeutic device which helps the heart to pump more blood.
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 is attached to a machine (computer console). This machine has a mechanism for inflating and deflating the balloon at the proper time when the heartbeats.
The device deflates when the heart pumps, so blood can flow to the rest of your body. It inflates when the heart relaxes to keep more blood in the heart.
IABP allows blood to flow more easily into the coronary arteries (arteries in the outer walls of the heart). IABP also helps your heart pump more blood with each contraction.
IABP is a short-term treatment. It is usually needed till the heart condition improves or till a permanent treatment is performed.
What is an intra-aortic balloon pump used for?
IABP is performed when the heart isn’t getting enough blood or isn’t pumping out to the rest of the body. It can be performed after the following heart problems:
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat or rhythm)
- Myocarditis (infection of the heart muscle)
- Heart attack
- An IABP may be used to help recover from surgery to reopen or bypass a blocked artery near the heart.
How is an intra-aortic balloon pump insertion performed?
Before the procedure
- The doctor performs a complete physical assessment.
- Basic blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), chest X-ray and echocardiogram are done before the procedure.
During the procedure
- The procedure may be performed under anesthesia.
- An IABP is attached to a tube called a catheter.
- The balloon is inserted into your aorta with the help of an X-ray camera. The aorta is the very large artery leaving the heart.
- This procedure is done through a small cut on the inside of the upper leg.
- The balloon pump catheter is inserted into an artery in the leg and then guided into the aorta.
- The device is connected to a machine that regulates the balloon to increase and decrease in size.
- It uses helium to inflate the balloon as helium doesn’t cause problems in the body if it leaks.
- Once the IABP is in place, the patient may feel chest pain and chest discomfort which usually resolves in a few minutes.
After the procedure
- The patient is required to have rest in bed with the legs kept straight to ensure the device doesn’t move.
What are the complications of Intra-aortic Balloon pump?
Though rare, as with any procedure, there’s a risk of complications, such as:
- Bleeding at the site the device was inserted
- Decreased blood flow in the arms or legs
- Injury to an artery
- Rupture of the balloon
- Incorrect position of the balloon
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