Ultrasound-guided insertion of intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation in intensive care: description of the technique


Intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation (IAoBC) is a mechanical circulatory support device that has been used for more than 50 years, mainly for cardiogenic shock.

Although its effect on mortality is controversial, IAoBC is still used in a wide variety of pre- and postoperative clinical settings in cardiac surgery centers.

IAoBC has a complication rate of approximately 30%, mostly associated with problems during insertion and malpositioning. Thus, an insertion technique based on the use of ultrasound at the patient’s bedside in the intensive care unit (ICU) is proposed.


Intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation (IAoBC) is used in up to 7% of cardiac surgery patients [1]. IAoBC is used in this context to support coronary circulation and to reduce stress on the left ventricle [23].

Despite the theoretical physiological advantages of IAoBC, its effect on decreasing mortality is controversial. IAoBC has been used in different groups of patients, including in those with cardiogenic shock, regardless of its etiology, refractory angina, acute myocardial infarction, refractory ventricular arrhythmias, mechanical infarct complications (acute mitral regurgitation and ventricular septal rupture), high-risk angioplasty and high-risk cardiac or noncardiac surgery, with different outcomes [14].

The main complications of using IAoBC result from insertion and malpositioning. Rastan et al. [5], in abdominal tomographies, found 68.2% disagreement in balloon length related to the distance between the subclavian artery and the celiac trunk, which was associated with abdominal vessel obstruction and worse clinical outcomes.

Vascular lesions can be catastrophic and evident during IAoBC insertion; however, inadvertent dissection of the aorta or iliac artery can go unnoticed, and such dissection is suspected before death in only 20% of cases [6]. Ischemic vascular complications range from 8 to 18%, with critical lower-limb ischemia lower than 1% [78].

Parissis et al. [9] showed that slowed pulse and cold feet were detected in 29.5% of the cases. Ischemia was resolved in most cases by removing the balloon and in 5.8% by thrombectomy; only one patient developed gangrene, which required amputation. Hematoma incidence ranges from 0.4 to 3.9%, and bleeding incidence ranges from 0.4 to 27.7% (mean 5.27 ± 8.5) [10].

IAoBC rupture is not frequent, but can cause a gas embolism and potential entrapment in the arterial tree. This is very rare and occurs in less than 0.5% of cases. The proposed mechanism involves mechanical disruption of the balloon against an atherosclerotic plaque or a calcified aorta and negative pressure created during deflation [11].

The use of ultrasound to perform femoral vascular access during the insertion of the IAoBC [12] and the use of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for positioning it [1314] has been described; however, since TEE is an invasive procedure, it is not routinely recommended [1415].

This article proposes an ultrasound-guided IAoBC insertion technique in the cardiovascular ICU. This technique is original, and similar techniques have not been previously described.


When the medical team decides to use IAoBC, the presence of any contraindication for the procedure (aortic valve disease, significant bleeding disorder or infection at the femoral puncture site) should be ruled out, and a clinical evaluation should be performed to rule out severe peripheral artery disease.

After explaining the procedure and asking the patient to sign an informed consent form, the IAoBC is inserted.

Ultrasound assessment is performed with the patient in the supine position; with a low-frequency (2 to 5 MHz) transducer, in a subxiphoid left paramedian longitudinal section, using the left hepatic lobe as a window, the abdominal aorta is represented as a pulsatile and anechogenic tubular image, supported on the vertebral bodies.

From the ventral face, the celiac trunk emerges first, and then the superior mesenteric artery runs parallel to the aorta, following the aorta to the aortic bifurcation. The presence of aneurysms or dissection should not be observed, which are contraindications for the procedure (Fig. 1).

Then, with a high-frequency linear transducer (6 to 15 MHz), the femoral artery is visualized; the presence of thrombi, aneurysms, atheromas or dissection inside the femoral artery should be ruled out.

The diameter of the femoral artery is measured and must be greater than 5 mm (mm) to allow passage of the 8-Fr balloon catheter (2.7 mm). Under sterile conditions, local anesthesia and real-time ultrasound guidance with a high-frequency linear transducer, the common femoral artery is punctured at an angle of 45 degrees or less

Continue Reading…

Ever Julián Duran & Ever Leonardo Rojas Díaz.

Darío Isaías Pinilla Rojas.

Mario Andrés Mercado Díaz.

Yury Forlán Bustos Martínez.

Correspondence to David Rene Rodriguez Lima.

1. Parissis H, Graham V, Lampridis S, Lau M, Hooks G, Mhandu PC (2016) IABP: history-evolution-pathophysiology-indications: what we need to know. J Cardiothorac Surg 11(1):122

 CAS – Article – Google Scholar

2. Freedman RJ (1991) The intra-aortic balloon pump system: current roles and future directions. J Appl Cardiol 6(5):313–318

Google Scholar

 3. Kantrowitz A (1990) Origins of intraaortic balloon pumping. Ann Thoracic Surg 50(4):672–674

CAS – Article – Google Scholar

 4. Moulopoulos SD, Topaz S, Kolff WJ (1962) Diastolic balloon pumping (with carbon dioxide) in the aorta—a mechanical assistance to the failing circulation. Am Heart J 63(5):669–675

CAS – Article – Google Scholar

 5. Rastan AJ, Tillmann E, Subramanian S, Lehmkuhl L, Funkat AK, Leontyev S, Doenst T, Walther T, Gutberlet M, Mohr FW (2010) Visceral arterial compromise during intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation therapy. Circulation. 122(1):92–99

Article – Google Scholar

 6. Isner JM, Cohen SR, Virmani R, Lawrinson W, Roberts WC (1980) Complications of the intraaortic balloon counterpulsation device: clinical and morphologic observations in 45 necropsy patients. Am J Cardiol 45(2):260–268

CAS – Article – Google Scholar

 7. Erdogan HB, Goksedef D, Erentug V, Polat A, Bozbuga N, Mansuroglu D, Guler M, Akinci E, Yakut C (2006) In which patients should sheathless IABP be used? An analysis of vascular complications in 1211 cases. J Card Surg 21(4):342–346

Article – Google Scholar

 8. Poirier Y, Voisine P, Plourde G, Rimac G, Perez AB, Costerousse O, Bertrand OF (2016) Efficacy and safety of preoperative intra-aortic balloon pump use in patients undergoing cardiac surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Cardiol 207:67–79

Article – Google Scholar

 9. Parissis H, Leotsinidis M, Akbar MT, Apostolakis E, Dougenis D (2010) The need for intra aortic balloon pump support following open heart surgery: risk analysis and outcome. J Cardiothorac Surg 5(1):20

Article – Google Scholar

 10. de Jong MM, Lorusso R, Al Awami F, Matteuci F, Parise O, Lozekoot P, Bonacchi M, Maessen JG, Johnson DM, Gelsomino S (2018) Vascular complications following intra-aortic balloon pump implantation: an updated review. Perfusion. 33(2):96–104

Article – Google Scholar

 11. Rajani R, Keon WJ, Bedard P (1980) Rupture of an intra-aortic balloon. A case report. J Thoracic Cardiovasc Surg 79(2):301–302

CAS – Article – Google Scholar

 12. Medved I (2002) Ultrasound-guided placement of intra-aortic balloon pump. Eur J Anaesthesiol 19(2):149–150

Article – Google Scholar

 13. Nishioka T, Friedman A, Cercek B, Chaux A, Luo H, Berglund H, Kim CJ, Blanche C, Siegel RJ (1996) Usefulness of transesophageal echocardiography for positioning the intraaortic balloon pump in the operating room. Am J Cardiol 77(1):105–106

CAS – Article – Google Scholar

 14. Klopman MA, Chen EP, Sniecinski RM (2011) Positioning an intraaortic balloon pump using intraoperative transesophageal echocardiogram guidance. Anesth Analg 113(1):40–43

Article – Google Scholar

15. Hahn RT, Abraham T, Adams MS, Bruce CJ, Glas KE, Lang RM, Reeves ST, Shanewise JS, Siu SC, Stewart W, Picard MH (2013) Guidelines for performing a comprehensive transesophageal echocardiographic examination: recommendations from the American society of echocardiography and the society of cardiovascular anesthesiologists. J Am Soc Echocardiogr 26(9):921–964

Article – Google Scholar

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.