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What is an Embolization?

Embolization is a nonsurgical procedure to block blood flow in blood vessels that are causing problems. It is used to treat certain types of vascular malformations Vascular malformations are abnormal clusters of blood vessels that develop during fetal development.

A doctor places a tiny plastic tube (catheter) through a large blood vessel. This is usually done in a blood vessel of the leg. The doctor places the tip of the catheter within the problematic blood vessel. They will put in special medication or use head that works to stop or decrease the blood flow in these vascular malformations.

X-rays are taken during the procedure. When the procedure is done, the catheter is removed. Pressure is placed on the catheter site to prevent bleeding. The length of the procedure depends on the size and location of the malformation. Your child will receive general anesthesia (sleepy air) for the procedure. They will not feel any pain during the procedure.

What is the purpose of embolization?

Embolization is used to treat a variety of malformations.

To prevent bleeding, patients may need embolization before surgical removal of the malformation or debulking of overgrown tissue.

When lesions are large and surgery is not possible, embolization may help to improve quality of life. It can help to decrease complications caused by the lesion.

Certain malformations may need several treatments to completely block the abnormal vessels. Treatments are spaced several months apart. Long-term follow-up and evaluation are required.

What should I expect before an embolization procedure?

Your child's procedure will be scheduled by the interventional radiology department.

The doctor will talk about the procedure with you. He or she will answer any questions that you may have during a clinic visit. The nurse will give you instructions for the day of the procedure.

You will be able to stay with your child until just before the procedure is started. You will be shown to the surgical waiting area while your child is in the procedure.

What happens after an embolization procedure?

As your child begins to wake up from the anesthesia, they will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). Your child may be admitted to the hospital after the procedure.

The doctor will talk to you about the results when the procedure is complete.

What should I expect after discharge from the hospital?

Your child may have mild discomfort or pain and/or swelling at the catheter site. Instructions will be given before discharge. These will include expectations after the procedure and phone numbers to call in case of concerns. Medications may be given for home use for pain control or to help decrease swelling.

What limitations do I or my child have after embolization?

Heavy lifting and contact sports should not happen for several weeks after the procedure. Your doctor will let you know more about limitations on bathing and regular activities when you leave the hospital.

What are the possible complications of embolization?

Embolization is a safe and effective procedure. Most patients do not have problems or serious side effects. Bleeding or bruising can occur at the catheter site. Clotting of a normal blood vessel or damage to normal tissue could potentially happen.

When should I call the doctor?

Call if you have any questions or concerns, or if you or your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the catheter site. If this happens, have your child lie flat and apply pressure to the site.
  • Swelling, redness or severe pain at the catheter site
  • Color changes in the leg or foot
  • Numbness or loss of feeling in the leg
  • A fever higher than 101° F rectally or orally, or higher than 100° F under the arm

Last Updated 07/2022

Reviewed By Kiersten Ricci, MD

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