What is a balloon pump?

It is a device used to increase the blood to the heart. The balloon is placed in the aorta. The aorta is the artery leading away from the heart. The balloon inflates between heart contractions. This pushes blood through the arteries and supplies the heart muscle with more oxygen and blood. 

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When is it used? 

It is used when the heart receives too little oxygen, as in a heart attack. It is also used when the heart is too weak to pump blood on its own.

During the Procedure

The balloon is placed in a procedure area by a heart doctor. The doctor will insert the deflated balloon through an artery in the leg. The balloon is advanced until it is just outside the heart.

While the Balloon is in Place

The patient remains in bed. The patient’s head of bed can be raised up slightly. This will keep the leg straight and allow the balloon to inflate and deflate as it should. The patient can resume eating while the balloon pump is in if it is okay with the doctor. 

The patient should tell a nurse or doctor if they have: 

  • Chest pain or heaviness 

  • Numbness or pain in the leg.

  • Back pain  

Sometimes the machine will sound alarms. These alarms alert the nurse to a problem with the machine or a change in the patient. The nurse will check both the machine and patient with any alarm.

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Removal of the Balloon

The balloon pump is used for short amounts of time. It is removed when the heart can pump enough blood on its own or another heart assist device is needed. This is most often after a few days but may be longer. 

It is removed by a provider in the ICU. After the balloon is removed, the patient has to stay in bed for a few hours, so the nurse can watch for any bleeding. The doctor will decide when the patient can be out of bed.