• Acute myocardial infarction;
  • Cardiogenic shock;
  • Intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation;
  • Limb ischaemia;
  • Nursing management;
  • Reflection


Intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation (IABC) is widely used to support the failing myocardium, particularly in patients with a background of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) complicated by cardiogenic shock (CS). CS is primarily due to left ventricular failure and is the most serious complication of AMI. Using Driscoll’s ‘What?’ reflective model to guide critical thinking, an incident involving a patient who required IABC following AMI is explored. There are various complications associated with IABC, limb ischaemia being very common. Risk factors, which predispose patients to the development of limb ischaemia following intra-aortic balloon pump insertion, are discussed as are the issues surrounding their care. Nurses are in an ideal position to detect any complications that may occur. They should be familiar with the patient’s medical history, including any risk factors, which could predispose them to the development of limb ischaemia. Consideration of these factors and the adjunctive treatment the patient may require can be used to plan care accordingly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that more patients are requiring haemodynamic support from IABC. Nurses and health care professionals who have the responsibility of caring for these patients need to be adequately trained in order to maintain a high standard of care. However, there appears to be a lack of evidence-based guidelines determining the optimum frequency of limb observations to assess for limb ischaemia. Further evidence as to the timing of limb observations is required in order that protocols can be written to guide the practice.