Intra-Aortic Balloon Counterpulsation Therapy | MedStar Health

A mechanical pump placed in your aorta to help pump blood

Certain heart conditions can make it difficult for your heart to pump enough blood through your body. Your doctor may recommend intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation therapy to help stabilize your heart if it needs extra support due to heart failure or a heart attack. A small mechanical pump can inflate a balloon placed within one of your coronary arteries to increase blood circulation.

The doctors in our Advanced Heart Failure Program will partner with our Complex Aortic Center team to determine the most effective treatment option for you.

What to expect during intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation

Your doctor may ask you not to eat or drink before the procedure. You will be given a sedative medication through an IV in your arm to help you relax. The doctor may use an echocardiogram to monitor your heart.

Your doctor will numb a small area on your thigh, where they will insert a catheter, which is a thin, flexible tube with a mechanically controlled balloon attached to it. The catheter is guided to the aorta using X-ray imaging for guidance. Once the balloon is in place, it will be programmed to inflate and deflate as your heart pumps to increase blood flow and blood oxygenation.

The counterpulsation therapy may be given over several days, during which time you will stay in the hospital for monitoring.


Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Our locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar St Mary's Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Harbor Hospital

3001 S. Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.