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An intra-aortic balloon pump is a device that helps the heart beat. This lesson will discuss the use of an intra-aortic balloon pump and how the patient is managed.

Weak Heart

Bob has just had a heart attack and his heart muscle has some damage. It is not beating strong enough to circulate blood and oxygen to the rest of his body.

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Bob’s cardiologist is going to use an intra-aortic balloon pump to help Bob’s heart until it regains strength. Bod is curious how the device will work.

What is an Intra-aortic Balloon Pump?

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a device that is inserted into the aorta near the chest. The aorta ia large artery in the body that runs from the heart to the abdomen.

The IABP helps the heart beat effectively. The IABP is a balloon that is attached to the end of a catheter. The catheter is inserted through an artery in the groin and guided to the aorta.

The catheter is secured and attached to a machine that controls the balloon. The balloon is inflated and deflated inside the aorta near the heart. When the heart relaxes the balloon is inflated and pushes blood back towards the heart. When the heart contracts the balloon is deflated causing the heart to have an increase in blood pumped to the body. This device helps the heart work while using less energy.The balloon pump is controlled by a monitor that can be set to inflate and deflate with each heartbeat, or can be set to work on every other beat, or every fourth beat. These settings allow the doctor to assess how well the heart is working with and without assistance from the IABP.

The aorta where the intra-aortic balloon pump is placed
The aorta where the intra-aortic balloon pump is placed

Bob understands how the IABP will work. He asks his doctor why he really needs it.

Who Needs an Intra-aortic Balloon Pump?

There are several reasons why the heart may be weak and require an IABP.

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Unstable chest pain
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Some heart arrhythmias
  • Defects of the heart

All of these conditions can weaken the heart and make it pump inefficiently. The IABP is a temporary treatment that is used while the heart heals or why waiting for a more permanent solution to the problem.Bob needs the IABP temporarily because the heart attack that he had weakened his heart. He is receiving various medications to support his heart and will use the balloon pump for several days while his heart heals.

If the heart is still unable to effectively pump blood to the body then he may have to have a stent placed or a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) to repair the heart.

Managing an Intra-aortic Balloon Pump

A patient with an IABP is monitored very closely while it is in place. The heart is constantly monitored to show the rhythm and rate. Blood pressure, respirations, and oxygen level will also be monitored during and after placement. Here is what to expect:

  1. The patient is given medication to relax and the catheter insertion site is numbed.
  2. The balloon catheter is inserted into the groin and threaded to the aorta in the chest.

    This is done by using an x-ray to show the anatomy of the chest and heart.

  3. The balloon is set to inflate when the heart relaxes and to deflate when the heart contracts.
  4. The catheter is secured in place and the patient is to lay in bed without moving the leg with the catheter.
  5. A chest x-ray is sometimes done to ensure the balloon is in the correct place.
  6. The balloon catheter stays in place for several days while the heart heals and regains strength, or until a more permanent treatment is done.

  7. When it is time to remove the balloon catheter, the patient is again medicated with something to make them relax. The catheter is removed and the insertion site is closed up.
  8. Regular activity can be resumed soon after the balloon catheter is removed.
Balloon pump that is placed in the aorta
Balloon catheter that is placed in the aorta

Bob now has the IABP in his aorta and it is set to inflate and deflate with each heartbeat.

After two days the doctor changes the setting so the balloon inflates and deflates with every fourth beat. Bob’s heart is getting stronger and does not require as much help to pump the blood. The IABP is removed on the third day and Bob’s heart is beating normally and effectively.

He is discharged from the hospital the next day.

Lesson Summary

An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) is a balloon catheter that is placed in the aorta to help pump blood and oxygen to the body. The aorta is the largest artery in the body and supplies blood throughout the body each time the heart beats. An IABP may be necessary when the heart is too weak pump enough blood due to unstable chest pain, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, heart defects, or certain abnormal heart rhythms. The balloon catheter is inserted into the groin and placed in the aorta near the heart. It is connected to a monitor that is set to inflate the balloon when the heart relaxes and deflate when the heart contracts.

The IABP can stay in for several days while the heart gets stronger or while waiting for another more permanent treatment.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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