Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump (IABP)

An intra-aortic balloon pump, also known as an IABP, is used to help the heart to pump more blood around the body. It also improves the delivery of oxygen to the heart. This device is used in both intensive and coronary care units.

Nurse checking IABP monitor

How does an IABP work?

A long catheter (tube) is inserted into the groin through a small cut made under local anaesthetic. The catheter is then carefully guided up a large blood vessel until it is near the heart.

The IABP machine connected to the catheter. It is matched to the patient’s heart rhythm and pumps gas into a balloon that is attached at the end of this catheter. This balloon inflates and deflates, pushing blood out to the body and blood back into the heart. In this way, both the body and the heart get better blood circulation and oxygen delivery.

How long will an IABP be used for?

An IABP is a temporary solution to support a weak heart. It will usually only be used for a short time to stabilise a person. The most common use for an IABP is following a severe heart attack or when a person is recovering from heart surgery.

Are there any complications?

All critical care procedures carry a degree of potential risk, even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Complications can include bleeding, a dislodged or moved catheter, and infections.

Visitors will be asked to not move the leg on the side where the IABP is. This to ensure it doesn’t get dislodged. You may need to remind them of this.

Any questions?

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.

Publication details

Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump, version 2.3. Reviewed by Linda Williams, NUM, Liverpool ICU, February 2016.


The information on this page is general in nature and cannot reflect individual patient variation. It reflects Australian intensive care practice, which may differ from that in other countries. It is intended as a supplement to the more specific information provided by the doctors and nurses caring for your loved one. ICNSW attests to the accuracy of the information contained here but takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.