Embolization Patient Education

Pre-Procedure Patient Information

What is an Embolization?

Embolization is a procedure that is done to block one or more blood vessels. This is done by injecting a type of medicine or material (embolic agent) into an artery or vein through a long, flexible tube (catheter). The embolic agent stops blood flow through the artery or vein.

This procedure may be done to:

  • Stop bleeding inside the body.
  • Cut off the blood supply to a tumor or an abnormal growth of blood vessels.
  • Treat blood vessels that are weak, bulging, leaking, or torn (aneurysm).

What conditions should I make sure my doctor is aware of?

Before your exam, you should notify the doctor or nurse of:

  • Any drug/food allergies
  • Allergies to IV contrast
  • Any blood thinning medications (anticoagulants) that you are taking
  • Any medical conditions you have
  • If you have an active infection
  • Whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant
  • Any problems you or your family members have had with anesthetic medications

What are the risks?

Generally, this is a safe procedure. However, as with any procedure, complications can occur. Possible complications include:

  • Injury to the blood vessels, including rupture or bleeding
  • Infection or bruising at the catheter insertion site
  • Allergic reaction to medicines or contrast used
  • Kidney damage from the dye or contrast used
  • Blood clots that can lead to a stroke or heart attack

About the Procedure

Before the procedure:

  • Your health care provider may want you to have blood tests. These tests can help tell how well your kidneys and liver are working. They can also show how well your blood clots.
  • Do not eat or drink within eight hours of your appointment
  • If you have diabetes and use insulin, you may need to adjust the dosage of insulin the day of the procedure. Your primary care doctor can help you with this adjustment.
  • If you are on blood thinning medications, you may need to stop them prior to the procedure. Check with your primary care doctor about when it is safe to stop blood-thinning medicine.
  • Do not discontinue any medication without first consulting with your primary care or referring physician
  • Do not take new dietary supplements or medicines during the week before your procedure unless your health care provider approves them
  • Plan to have someone take you home and stay with you for the first 24 hours after you leave the hospital. You should not drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 24 hours after the procedure.

The day of the procedure:

  • Make sure you shower on the day of your procedure, washing the anticipated access site with soap and water
  • If you are told to take a medication or to continue taking a medication on the day of the procedure, take the medication with a small sip of water
  • Please arrive and register at admissions in the lobby of the hospital at your scheduled time
  • You will be escorted to the prep area, where you will be connected to a blood pressure machine that will take your blood pressure and your heart rate. You will also have electrocardiogram (ECG) leads placed on your chest to allow us to monitor your heart during the procedure.
  • A nurse will insert an IV into your arm. During the embolization, this IV may be used to give you medications. These medications may include medicine to help you relax and reduce pain. The area where the catheter will be inserted will be shaved. This is usually in your groin. The nurse will also review your medical history and medications, listen to your heart and lungs and make sure you have followed all your pre-procedure instructions.
  • Your physician will obtain your consent for the embolization. The physician will explain the procedure including possible complications and side effects. They will also answer any questions you may have.

During the procedure:

You will be awake during the procedure. You will be positioned on your back for the procedure. Let the staff know if the position is not comfortable.  The access site for the catheter will be cleansed with a special antiseptic solution. Sterile drapes will be placed. The doctor will inject a small amount of local anesthetic through a very small needle in the skin where the catheter will be inserted. It feels like a pinch and then a slight burning as the local anesthetic starts numbing the skin.

A needle will be used to access the artery. Imaging (US) can be used to guide the needle into the artery. A small amount of dye may be injected through the needle. An X-ray can then be taken to make sure that the needle is in the correct place. Using a wire, the needle will be removed and a catheter, which is thin and flexible, will be placed.

The catheter is guided by using a type of X-ray (fluoroscopy) to the artery being examined. Dye is then injected into the catheter and X-rays are taken. This helps to show the exact location of the blood vessels that are causing the problem. The embolic agent will then be injected through the catheter to the exact area of bleeding or abnormality. More X-rays will be taken to make sure the blood vessel has been blocked. The catheter will then be removed.

A device to help seal the artery may be placed as the catheter is removed. Hand pressure may be held on the access site for a period of time. Your skin will be cleansed, and a bandage will be applied.

After the procedure:

  • You will stay in the recovery area for observation for 2 – 6 hours.
  • If your groin was accessed, you will have to lie flat in bed during this time. You will not be able to bend your leg.
  • The insertion site will be checked frequently.
  • The pulses in your feet will be checked frequently.
  • You will be asked about your pain.
  • The nurses will review your discharge instructions with you.
  • You will then be discharged home. Someone must drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours.

Can I resume normal activities?

  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery for 24 hours after the procedure
  • Resume your normal diet
  • Embolization of the arteries in the stomach may cause loss of appetite or nausea
  • Women who have embolization of fibroid tumors in the uterus may have pain or cramps
  • Drink plenty of fluids for the first several days after the embolization. This helps flush the contrast out of your body.
  • Return to your normal activities when your health care provider says that it is safe
  • Do not lift anything that is heavier than 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) or as told by your doctor
  • If your catheter insertion site was in your leg, try to avoid stairs for a few days
  • Do not take baths, swim, or use a hot tub until your doctor says it is okay
  • Do not apply powder or lotion to the catheter insertion site. Keep the area clean and dry.
  • You may shower 24–48 hours after the procedure, or as told by your doctor. To clean the catheter insertion site:
    • Gently wash the area with plain soap and water
    • Pat the area dry with a clean towel
    • Do not rub the area. This may cause bleeding.

What do I do for follow up visits?

Please make a follow up appointment with your ordering provider for follow up care.

Contact Information:

Contact your ordering physician for any questions or concerns to include:

  • Insertion site problems to include:
    • Redness, swelling or pain
    • Fluid or small amount of blood
    • Puss or a bad smell
    • More bruising or hardness around the insertion site
  • You have a fever that does not get better with medicine
  • You feel like you may vomit or you vomit
  • Your skin becomes itchy or you develop a rash or hives

Get help right away if:

  • You have very bad bleeding from the insertion site. Lie flat and put pressure on the area.
  • You have a lot of pain in the insertion area
  • The insertion area swells very fast
  • Your leg becomes pale, cool, tingly or numb
  • You have chest pain
  • You are short of breath or have trouble breathing
  • You feel dizzy or you faint

These symptoms may be an emergency. Get help right away. Call 911.

  • Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away.
  • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.