The intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) has been the most commonly used mechanical circulatory support device for nearly five decades. In theory, the IABP can increase the blood and oxygen supply of the coronary artery by increasing the diastolic pressure in the aortic root when the balloon is inflated and reduce left ventricular afterload by rapidly deflating the balloon during the systolic phase. Therefore, some researchers put forward the idea of preoperative prophylactic use of an IABP, which has been frequently performed in high-risk patients undergoing elective percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG). Previous studies have suggested preoperative IABP has a controversial effect on patients undergoing revascularization; the role of preoperative IABP insertion in those patients undergoing CABG alone remains uncertain. This review will give further insight into routine IABP use by presenting the basic principles and discussing current evidence.