Embolization is a minimally invasive treatment procedure that blocks or reduces circulation in blood vessels that can adversely affect the body. Your doctor will administer embolizing agents through a catheter into the blood vessel or area close to the blood vessel that is to be blocked. There are many types of embolic agents and the doctor will determine which is most appropriate, depending on whether the blood vessel is to be blocked temporarily or permanently.
The most common use of catheter embolization is to control bleeding from injuries, tumors, stomach ulcers or other emergency causes. Controlling bleeding into the abdomen or pelvis from injuries caused in an auto collision is especially suitable for this approach. Common health problems that can be treated using catheter embolization include:
-Bleeding that results from a traumatic injury. Controlling bleeding into the abdomen or pelvis from injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident is especially suitable for this treatment.
-Bleeding from gastrointestinal tract lesions such as ulcer or diverticular disease. Embolization is commonly the first line of treatment in gastrointestinal bleeding of any cause.
-Bleeding from vascular malformations. For example, abnormal vascular channels can form in between arteries and veins in the circulatory system of the lungs. Catheter embolization can be used to eliminate these abnormal connections.
-Tumor bleeding. Embolization can help reduce the pain associated with tumor bleeding.
-Long menstrual periods or heavy menstrual bleeding that results from uterine fibroid tumors. Embolization may prove to be an excellent alternative to hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus. Because fibroids have a large blood supply, embolization can shrink and control heavy menstrual bleeding by interrupting the blood supply. See the Uterine Fibroid Embolization page for more information.
-Embolization is a highly effective way of controlling bleeding, especially in an emergency situation.
-Worldwide success rates of 85 percent and higher have been reported in women treated with embolization for uterine fibroids.
-Embolization is much less invasive than conventional open surgery. As a result, there are fewer complications and the hospital stay is relatively brief—often only the night after the procedure. Blood loss is less than with traditional surgical treatment, and there is no obvious surgical incision.
-Catheter embolization can be used to treat tumors and vascular malformations that either cannot be removed surgically or would involve great risk if surgery was attempted.
- No surgical incision is necessary for this procedure. You will only receive a small nick in the skin that does not need stitches.
-There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected.
-Any procedure that places a catheter inside a blood vessel carries certain risks. These risks include damage to the blood vessel, bruising or bleeding at the puncture site, and infection. The doctor will take precautions to mitigate these risks.
-There is always a chance that an embolic agent can lodge in the wrong place and deprive normal tissue of its oxygen supply.
-There is a risk of infection after embolization, even if an antibiotic has been given. However, the physician takes ample care to minimize this risk.
-A small percent of women have uterine injury from embolization of fibroid tumors and this may make it necessary to remove the uterus (hysterectomy). In a few cases in women over age 45, menopause has begun within one year of embolization of fibroids. The effect of fibroid embolization on fertility is not clearly understood; women who wish to have children in the future should consult carefully with their interventional radiologist prior to pursuing fibroid embolization as a treatment option.
-Because contrast material is used in the procedure, there is a risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast material. However, patients are prescreened for this risk.
-There is also a risk of kidney damage due to the contrast material, particularly in patients with diabetes or other pre-existing kidney disease. However, patients are prescreened for this risk.
Using x-ray imaging and a contrast material to visualize the blood vessel, the interventional radiologist inserts a catheter through the skin into a blood vessel that needs to be embolized and advances it to the treatment site. A synthetic material or medication called an embolic agent is then inserted through the catheter and positioned within the blood vessel or malformation where it will remain permanently.
Prior to your procedure, your blood may be tested to determine how well your kidneys are functioning and whether your blood clots normally. Tell your doctor about all the medications you take, including herbal supplements. List any allergies, especially to local anesthetic, general anesthesia or to contrast materials. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or blood thinners before your procedure. Tell your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions. Women should always inform their physician and x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation. If an x-ray is necessary, precautions will be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the baby. See the Safety page for more information about pregnancy and x-rays. You will receive specific instructions on how to prepare, including any changes that need to be made to your regular medication schedule. You will likely be instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight before your procedure. Your doctor will tell you which medications you may take in the morning. You will be admitted to the hospital on the morning of your procedure and be assessed by the interventional radiologist before the procedure begins. You should plan to stay overnight at the hospital for one or more days.
Most patients leave the hospital within 24 hours of the procedure, but those who have considerable pain may have to stay longer. You should be able to resume your normal activities within a week. Until then, minimal activity is recommended.
-Untargeted embolization to surrounding organs.
-Allergic reaction to contrast media.
-Reaction to anesthesia.
-Risk of damage by contrast media to the kidneys.
What happens after I get discharged from the hospital?
After you are discharged, it is recommended that you stay at a hotel close to the hospital for at least one day for convenience in traveling to the hospital if any complications arise after the procedure.
What are embolic agents and what are some examples?
Embolic agents are the materials or medication that create the blockage in the blood vessel. There are several types. Your doctor will select the most suitable agent for the type and size of the blood vessel. Another factor is the temporary or permanent need for the blocking of the blood vessels.
Types of material include:
1.Spongy materials that block arteries and dissolve over time.
2.Small polymer spheres to permanently block small blood vessels.
3.Stainless steel or platinum coils or devices for permanent blocking of large vessels.
4.Clot forming liquids.