What to Expect During a Catheter Embolization

Image-guided, minimally invasive procedures such as catheter embolizations should be performed by a specially trained interventional radiologist.

Prior to your procedure, you may have an ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI.

You will be positioned on the examining table.

You will be connected to monitors that track your heart rate, blood pressure and pulse during the procedure.

A nurse or technologist will insert an I.V. into a vein in your hand or arm so that sedative medication can be given intravenously. You also may receive general anesthesia.

The area of your body where the catheter is to be inserted will be shaved, sterilized and covered with a surgical drape.

A very small nick is made in the skin at the site.

Using image-guidance, a long, thin, hollow plastic tube (catheter) is inserted through the skin into a blood vessel and to the treatment site.

A contrast material then is injected through the catheter, and a series of X-rays are taken to locate the exact site of bleeding or abnormality. The medication or embolic agent is then injected through the catheter. Additional X-rays are taken to ensure the loss of blood flow in the target vessel or malformation.

At the end of the procedure, the catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding. The opening in the skin is then covered with a dressing. No sutures are needed.

Your I.V. will be removed.

You can expect to stay in bed for several hours after your procedure.

Time Consideration

The length of the procedure varies from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the complexity of the condition.

Other Factors

You will feel a slight pprick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the I.V. and when the local anesthetic is injected.

The I.V. sedative will make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You may or may not remain awake, depending on how deeply you are sedated.

You may feel slight pressure when the catheter is inserted but no serious discomfort.

As the contrast material passes through your body, you may get a warm feeling.

Most patients experience some side effects after embolization. Pain is the most common and can be controlled by medication given by mouth or through your I.V.

Mild headache may follow embolization of an intracranial arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

Most patients leave the hospital within 24 hours of the procedure, but those who have considerable pain may stay longer.

You should be able to resume your normal activities within a week.

Limitations of Catheter Embolization

Successful embolization without injuring normal tissue requires that the catheter be placed in a precise position. This means that the catheter tip is situated so that embolic material can be deposited only in vessels serving the abnormal area. In a small percentage of cases, the catheter cannot be positioned appropriately.

Whether clinical success is achieved depends on many factors:

  • Size of a tumor
  • Location of an arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
  • How the patient views the outcome

Several sessions of embolization may be needed to reduce symptoms from an AVM.