The intra-aortic balloon pump, also called the balloon pump, is a machine that helps the heart pump blood throughout the body. It consists of two parts: a balloon inserted into the aorta, one of the large arteries through which blood passes from the heart to the rest of the body; and a machine outside the body. The intra-aortic balloon pump is used when the heart cannot pump enough blood on its own. The device assists your heart in pumping blood; it does not replace your heart function.
What Is an Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump?
The intra-aortic balloon pump contains a small balloon that is inflated inside the aorta when the heart muscle relaxes. Before the heart muscle pumps, the balloon is deflated, helping blood flow from the heart. The balloon works in conjunction with a machine outside the body to which the balloon is connected.
The balloon is inserted and advanced to the aorta through the femoral artery in the leg. The balloon tube may be inserted during open heart surgery, in the cardiac catheterization laboratory or at the patient’s bedside in the hospital. A patient on a balloon pump must stay in bed while connected to the machine.
Why Would You Have an Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump?
An intra-aortic balloon pump is used in patients who have severe heart failure, including those with a severe heart attack or cardiomyopathy (severe heart muscle weakness), and those who are recovering from open heart surgery or waiting for a heart transplant.
What to Expect During Your Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump Procedure
Preparing for Your Procedure
Prior to receiving therapy with an intra-aortic balloon pump, you’ll meet with your physician to discuss your medical history, the medicines you take and any questions you have.
During Your Procedure
Your procedure may take place in the cardiac catheterization lab or at your hospital bedside, and you will remain awake but will be given medication to help you relax. (If the procedure takes place during open heart surgery, you will be under general anesthesia.) Your groin area will be numbed before the puncture site is made to the femoral artery to insert the catheter (tube) through which the balloon will be threaded to the aorta located in your chest. You may feel minimal discomfort during the procedure from the local numbing medication applied to the groin. There is no discomfort associated with the intra-aortic balloon pump.
After Your Procedure
The tube with the balloon connects to the balloon pump machine that is located outside the body. You must stay in bed while you are connected to the machine. The head of the bed can be raised only slightly, and your leg into which the tube is inserted must remain straight at all times. This prevents the tube from bending and allows the pump to work properly.
The device assists your heart in pumping blood; it does not replace your heart function. The machine has alarms that will sound to alert your medical team of any problems. The balloon tube is left in place until your heart can pump enough blood on its own. Your medical team will monitor you closely to determine when the pump can be removed.
When it is time for the balloon to be removed, it is pulled out from the same puncture site where it was inserted. Manual pressure is applied to the femoral artery for several minutes afterward.
Your physician and medical team will give you instructions as to when you can engage in activities after the removal of your pump.