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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2012 Oct;144(4):951-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2012.03.007. Epub 2012 Apr 20.

Intra-aortic balloon pump inserted through the subclavian artery: A minimally invasive approach to mechanical support in the ambulatory end-stage heart failure patient.

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Center for Aortic Diseases, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.



Intra-aortic balloon pumps are traditionally inserted through the femoral artery, limiting the patient's mobility. We used alternate approaches of intra-aortic balloon pump insertion to provide temporary and minimally invasive support for patients with decompensating, end-stage heart failure. The present study describes the outcomes with closed-chest, transthoracic intra-aortic balloon pumps by way of the subclavian artery.


During a 3-year period, 20 patients underwent subclavian artery-intra-aortic balloon pump in the setting of end-stage heart failure. The balloon was inserted through a polytetrafluoroethylene graft sutured to the right subclavian artery in 19 patients (95%) and to the left subclavian artery in 1 patient (5%). The goal of support was to bridge to transplantation in 17 patients (85%) and bridge to recovery in 3 patients (15%). The primary outcome measure was death during subclavian artery-intra-aortic balloon pump support. The secondary outcomes included survival to the intended endpoint of bridge to transplantation/bridge to recovery, complications during subclavian artery-intra-aortic balloon pump support (eg, stroke, limb ischemia, brachial plexus injury, dissection, bleeding requiring reoperation, and device-related infection), emergent surgery for worsening heart failure, and ambulation during intra-aortic balloon pump support.


The duration of balloon support ranged from 3 to 48 days (mean, 17.3 ± 13.1 days). No patients died during subclavian artery-intra-aortic balloon pump support. Of the 20 patients, 14 (70%) were successfully bridged to transplant or left ventricular-assist device. Two patients (10%) required emergent left ventricular-assist device for worsening heart failure.


An intra-aortic balloon pump inserted through the subclavian artery is a simple, minimally invasive approach to mechanical support and is associated with limited morbidity and facilitates ambulation in patients with end-stage heart failure.

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