Heart & Vascular Hospital

202 S. Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
Telephone: (608) 417-6259
Location: Meriter Hospital - 10 Tower

Intra-aortic Balloon Pump (IABP)


Why is the doctor performing this procedure?

To increase blood flow to the heart and to decrease the heart's work load.

What is the procedure?

The intra-aortic balloon pump, commonly called IABP, is a catheter-based procedure for patients with severe heart disease (e.g. heart attack, heart failure, etc.) or for patients waiting for a heart transplant.

The procedure requires placement of an intra-aortic balloon catheter into an artery, usually in the groin (the femoral artery) and then advanced into the largest artery in your body, the aorta. Next, the intra-aortic balloon catheter is connected to a machine, called an IABP. The IABP is used to control the inflation/deflation and timing, so that the intra-aortic balloon will inflate when the heart muscle relaxes and deflate just before the heart pumps again. This process is called "counterpulsation." which assists the heart as follows:

The IABP, which is at the bedside, inflates the intra-aortic balloon within the aorta when the heart is relaxed. This allows the heart to receive more oxygen-rich blood without working so hard. Then, just before the heart gets ready to pump this oxygenated blood, the pump deflates the intra-aortic balloon. This creates a drop in the pressure within the aorta, assisting the heart by reducing the amount of work on the heart, so the heart can pump the blood more easily throughout the body.

Once the heart stabilizes and can function properly on its own, the intra-aortic balloon catheter is removed, and pressure is applied to the insertion site to stop bleeding.

The IABP is typically used for the following situations:

  • During emergency situations, including heart attack and heart failure.
  • During severe angina episodes.
  • Before, during, or after open-heart surgery (in certain patients only).
  • Before, during, or after balloon angioplasty (in certain patients only).
  • During the waiting period for a donor heart for heart transplantation.

Where is the procedure performed?

The intra-aortic balloon pump insertion is usually done in the Heart & Vascular Hospital Cardiovascular Lab. Occasionally, it is performed in the Operating Room (OR) or the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

How long does this procedure take?

The placement of the IABP takes about 30 minutes. The catheter and IABP are then left in place until they are no longer needed - usually a few days.