Pulmonary Edema | Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

10. Intra-Aortic Balloon Pumping

A temporary surgical procedure which is sometimes life-saving. A surgical incision is made in the leg, and the device is inserted into the femoral artery. The cylindrical balloon is advanced through the vascular system until it reaches the aorta, the body’s biggest blood vessel, which originates directly from the heart.

When the heart contracts, sending blood forcefully into the aorta, the helium-filled balloon is deflated, effectively creating a vacuum, which decreases the vascular resistance and facilitates blood flow.

When the heart relaxes, the balloon is inflated, sending some of the blood back to the coronary arteries near the origin of the aorta. The coronary arteries supply the heart itself with blood, containing oxygen and nutrients. The increased myocardial blood supply helps maintaining effective cardiac contractions.

The inflation and deflation of the balloon is controlled by a computer to match the rhythm of the heart. The balloon is filled with helium because helium is less likely than air to cause an embolism in case of ruptures. Radiography is used to make sure that the balloon is placed properly. The intra-aortic balloon pump is typically left in place for a couple of days.

› Treatment of the underlying cause

Depending on the disease that caused the pulmonary edema, specific treatments should be administered. For example, patients with heart valve disease may need surgical correction or a prosthetic heart valve.