What Is a Catheter Embolization?

What Is a Catheter Embolization?

iStock_000006042109Large-revAt Peninsula Radiology Associates, we believe patient education is an important facet of our services. We know that many of our patients like to familiarize themselves with procedures before we meet them. One of the procedures frequently performed is called catheter embolization.

What Is a Catheter Embolization?

Embolization, also known as catheter embolization, is a radiologic procedure used to introduce medications or synthetic embolic agents into a blood vessel to occlude — or block — blood flow. This procedure is often indicated to:

  • Stop abnormal bleeding, particularly gastrointestinal or pelvic bleeding.
  • Eliminate abnormal connections between arteries and veins, including AVMs (arteriovenous malformations) and AVFs (arteriovenous fistulas).
  • Cut blood supply to a tumor, including benign (non-cancerous) uterine fibroids in women and cancerous tumors in both men and women. Following embolization, a malignant tumor may shrink or grow more slowly, making chemotherapy and/or surgery more effective patient options.
  • Treat aneurysms, which are bulges or sacs formed in weak artery walls.
  • Treat varicoceles — enlarged veins — in the scrotum, which may contribute to infertility.

Embolization is a highly effective procedure, which can be performed on an outpatient basis. It helps you avoid more invasive surgical treatments or interventions for these and other common conditions when used alone. Catheter embolization may also be combined with other treatments such as surgery or radiation.

What To Expect During the Catheter Embolization Procedure?

During catheter embolization, a physician called an interventional radiologist will use fluoroscopy — an imaging process that is similar to X-rays, but provides live, real-time moving images of your body — to carefully guide a catheter to the area within your body requiring treatment. A catheter is a long, thin plastic tube measuring about one-eighth of an inch in diameter that can be threaded safely through your arterial system.

Once your catheter has been placed, your physician injects a contrast material with iodine through it so that X-rays can be taken to indicate the precise site of your bleeding or abnormality. Then your interventional radiologist inserts the appropriate embolic agent through the catheter. The precise agent placed depends on the condition for which you are being treated. Common embolic agents include:

  • Acrylic polymer spheres, which are used to permanently block small blood vessels.
  • Small metallic coils, which are frequently used to permanently stop abnormal bleeding.
  • Liquid sclerosing agents, which are chemicals designed to cause scarring in a blood vessel that permanently seals the vessel.

Post Procedure Recommendations

You are normally sedated, using either a moderate or general anesthetic, and fitted with an IV (intravenous) drip and monitors for your vital signs at the start of the procedure.

Since arteries have no sensation, you should not experience any discomfort from the catheter once it has been inserted. You may experience a warm feeling from the contrast dye or other sensations when your embolic agent is administered, depending on your level of sedation. X-rays are taken to verify the success of the procedure.

Bed rest is recommended for at least six to eight hours following your procedure. You may experience some side effects after catheter embolization. Pain is a common one and is controlled by either oral medication or medication administered through your IV.

To schedule an appointment at Peninsula Radiology Associates, please call (757) 989-8830. We are proud to be affiliated with the Riverside Hospital system and have seven locations throughout Hamptons Roads to serve you. Please contact us with any questions about catheter embolization or the many other procedures and services our board-certified radiologists and experienced team expertly and compassionately provide.

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