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Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump Therapy Improves Blood Flow

If your heart is not able to pump enough blood to your body, you may feel new and severe fatigue. This may be complicated by other heath issues, such as high blood pressure, being overweight, and smoking.

Your cardiologist may tell you that your coronary arteries may not be able to pump enough blood through to the rest of your body. This could be because of your aorta - the largest coronary artery, which pumps blood out of your heart.

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a type of therapeutic device, which helps your heart pump more blood. You may need this type of device if your heart is unable to pump enough blood for your body.


What is an Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump?

Your heart pumps oxygenated blood and nutrients to all parts of your body. Blood leaves the heart through the arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood. The outer walls of the heart also contain arteries. These are called the coronary arteries. Through these vessels, the heart receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs.

When the heart contracts, it sends blood out to the body. As it relaxes, blood flows into the coronary arteries to bring oxygen to the heart. An IABP allows blood to flow more easily into your coronary arteries. It also helps your heart pump more blood with each contraction.

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 attaches to a computer console. This console has a mechanism for inflating and deflating the balloon at the proper time when your heart beats.


How is the Balloon Pump Procedure Completed?

Beebe's structural heart team will make a small incision in your leg or groin area. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter will be used to thread a balloon up to your heart. The balloon is then inserted into your aorta. The aorta is the very large artery leaving your heart. The procedure is completed at Beebe's Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus in the Interventional Cardiology Lab or the Hybrid Operating Room. These advanced procedure rooms allow the team to watch using X-ray and echocardiography to be sure the balloon is inserted in the precise location.

Once placed, the Balloon Pump can start to do its work. The balloon is set to inflate when the heart relaxes. It pushes blood flow back toward the coronary arteries. They may not have been receiving enough blood without the pump. When the heart contracts, the balloon deflates. That allows the heart to pump more blood out to the body while using less energy. The device continues to inflate and deflate until it is removed.

An IABP is a short-term treatment. You may need it until your heart condition improves or until you can receive a more permanent treatment.

For most patients, the procedure takes up to a few hours. You will likely stay a day or two in the hospital and then you will be discharged to continue recovery at home.

Talk to your healthcare provider immediately following your procedure if you experience pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs, or if you experience chest pain.


Who is a Candidate for Balloon Pump Therapy?

Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump therapy is used to treat cardiogenic shock. That’s when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body.

Some heart problems can cause cardiogenic shock. These include:

  • Unstable angina
  • Heart attack
  • Certain abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart failure
  • Heart defects

You may also need an IABP if you have a certain medical procedure. For example, you may need it if you have a percutaneous coronary intervention. This procedure opens a blocked artery in the heart. You also might benefit from an IABP if you have heart surgery.

In some cases, you might not be able to use an IABP, even if your heart can’t pump enough blood. For example, people with a leaky aortic valve can’t safely use an IABP. Those with aortic aneurysms also can’t benefit from the therapy.


What Can I Expect Before Having the Procedure?

Before your procedure, talk with your care provider about your concerns. They will give you detailed instructions. Be sure to tell your provider if you are pregnant or think you could be.

Let your provider know if you have:

  • Any other medical conditions
  • A problem with sedation
  • New symptoms, such as a sudden fever

If you smoke, you should try to stop before your procedure. It will help reduce your chance of complications. You should also not eat or drink anything after midnight before the day of your procedure. You may also need to stop taking any medicines. Before and during the treatment, you will probably need to take medicine to help prevent blood clots. Smoking Cessation resources.

You may need other tests to assess your health beforehand. These might include:

  • Basic blood work (to assess for anemia and infection)
  • An electrocardiogram (to check your heart rhythm)
  • A chest X-ray (to view your heart and lungs)
  • An echocardiogram (to view how well your heart is pumping)

Contact Us to Learn More

Beebe's cardiovascular team is here for you. Contact us to learn more about the Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump therapy or about other heart procedures completed at Beebe. If you need additional information, you may talk to your cardiologist or call 844-316-3334 to talk to Carrie Snyder, Beebe Heart Health Nurse Navigator, or fill out the form below.