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Learning About an Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump

Blood flow in the heart

What is an intra-aortic balloon pump?

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.

How is the procedure done?

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is typically placed through a blood vessel in the upper leg. The doctor will numb an area of the leg. Then the doctor will put the IABP through the femoral artery in the leg and into the aorta. The doctor then places the IABP at the centre of the aorta, below the heart.

The person will lie flat in an intensive care unit bed and get medicine to help them relax. The doctor will use an X-ray machine to help place the IABP.

What can you expect after the procedure?

This is often an emergency procedure. The doctor may do tests to find the heart problem. The doctor may also do treatments to help the heart work on its own. This includes replacing a heart valve or doing bypass surgery.

The doctor may add or change medicines to help the heart pump better.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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