An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a mechanical device
that helps the heart pump blood.
This device is inserted into the aorta, the body's largest artery. It is a long, thin
tube called a catheter with a balloon on the end of it. If you are hospitalized, your doctor may insert an IABP. Your doctor will
numb an area of your leg and thread the IABP through the femoral artery in your
leg into your aorta. He or she then positions the IABP at the center of your
aorta, below your heart.
In the battle against atherosclerosis, the stakes remain high. Scientists
have made exciting medical advances, but the disease persists as a leading
cause of illness and death in the United States. This year alone,
atherosclerosis will contribute to about 1.2 million heart attacks among
“While we have very good therapies and tests to identify the disease and
predict the risk, none of them is perfect,” says Stephen Nicholls, MBBS
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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 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:
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?
IABPs cause some side effects. An IABP can cause
an infection in your bloodstream if it is used for too long. The balloon may
overinflate and tear your aorta.
IABP treatment is also
inconvenient. You must lie extremely still in your hospital bed if you have one
of these devices in place.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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