Embolization is a nonsurgical procedure for clogging small blood vessels and blocking the flow of blood.

Embolization is used to manage complex lesions (abnormal body tissues), such as arteriovenous malformations and combined vascular malformations. It is often used as part of an overall treatment strategy that combines a variety of approaches. Patients may also need embolization prior to surgery to prevent bleeding. When lesions are extensive and surgery is not possible, embolization may improve the overall quality of life by controlling the lesion and lessening the symptoms.

Arteriovenous and combined vascular malformations may require a series of two to three treatments to block all of the abnormal vessels. Treatments usually are spaced several months apart. Long-term follow-up and evaluation is required to determine if re-treatment is necessary.

Your child’s procedure will be scheduled by an Interventional RN or technologist. Before the day of the procedure, your child may be seen in the Interventional Radiology clinic where you will meet the radiologist, nurse practitioner and RN who will care for your child. The radiologist will discuss the procedure with you and answer any questions you may have. 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 performed and will be escorted to the surgical waiting area for the duration of the procedure.

Your child will receive general anesthesia and will not experience pain during the procedure.

A doctor called an interventional radiologist places a tiny plastic tube called a catheter through the femoral artery or vein, which is located in the upper leg. The doctor then positions the tip of the catheter into an abnormal artery or vein and injects small foam-like particles or titanium coils. This closes the blood vessel and prevents the flow of blood into the malformation.

X-rays are taken during the procedure so the doctor can clearly see which blood vessels need embolization. When the procedure is completed, the catheter is removed and pressure is applied to the catheter site to prevent bleeding. Embolization usually takes three to four hours.

As your child begins to wake up from the anesthesia, he/she will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) where he/she will be closely watched. You may stay with your child in the PACU. Your child will be admitted to the hospital after the procedure for 6-23 hours. Your child must lie very still and cannot bend his/her leg for 4-6 hours after the procedure. The radiologist will speak to you about the results after the procedure is complete.

After discharge from the hospital your child may experience mild discomfort or pain at the catheter site. He/She may also have a fever of 100° F or less for the first few days. This is normal. You may give acetaminophen (Tylenol) for discomfort or fever, following the instructions on the label. If needed, the doctor or nurse practitioner will give you a prescription for pain medication. To prevent bleeding at the catheter site, it is important that you do not give aspirin or medications that contain aspirin – unless prescribed by a member of the interventional radiology team. Aspirin may make your child more susceptible to bleeding.

Your child will not have any restrictions on bathing or routine activities; however, heavy lifting, stair climbing and contact sports should be avoided for several days.

Embolization is a safe and effective procedure that has been shown to be invaluable in treating arteriovenous and combined vascular malformations. Most patients do not have problems or serious side effects; however, bleeding or bruising can occur at the catheter site. Clotting of an artery or damage to normal tissue can also occur.