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Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery




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Intra-aortic Balloon Pump

The intra-aortic balloon pump, or IABP,  is a machine that temporarily supports circulation when cardiac function is diminished. It requires continuous and comprehensive monitoring, and is usually used only in the intensive care or coronary care setting where a person can be watched carefully. It is only a supportive measure and one that is usually used while a patient is awaiting definitive therapy, such as heart surgery or transplant. 

The IABP system contains a sausage-shaped balloon and a pump that inflates and deflates the balloon, in concert with an EKG screen at the patient’s bedside. The balloon is inserted by way of  the femoral artery and is threaded along the artery and into the aorta. There it is inflated and deflated at specific times during the heart’s contractions to support or enhance circulation to the extremities and back into the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart muscle. 

When the patient’s condition improves, the process of “weaning” from  the IABP is started. Weaning is performed gradually, until the patient’s heart is functioning independent of the pump.