An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a device to help decrease the
workload of the heart and increase blood flow to the heart and the rest of the
body. A balloon is attached to the end of a catheter and threaded up into the
aorta, the main artery leaving the heart. Here, it is inflated and deflated in
a regular sequence synchronized to a person's heart rhythm to provide the
needed pressure to circulate blood.
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.
Four years ago, Emmetsburg, Iowa, insurance agent Jim Wirtz, now 65, had
triple bypass surgery. Just 10 days later, he was back at the office. Three
weeks after that, he received a clean bill of health from his doctors, who said
he could do any physical activity -- except shovel heavy snow.
Wirtz took their advice, and he and his wife resumed having intercourse.
"Stay in the game, whether it's sex or work," he says. "My own
philosophy is, you just better live."
Wirtz is doing what doctors...