What is an embolization procedure?

Do you know how horrendous it was before modern medicine was discovered and established? In the old days, many treatments given can be very painful or even terrifying to look at. We should be lucky that many treatments nowadays are safe and cause less serious after-effects, making humans able to return to most of their daily life routine as usual. If you ask a doctor, you will know that there are certain procedures that can only be done by specialists and those who have years of experience. We will learn about embolization in this article.

Embolization is a medical procedure that blocks or closes a specific blood vessel. It is a minimally invasive treatment. Embolization procedures aim to shut down specific targeted areas by cutting off or reducing blood flow. In general, embolization involves injecting medications or embolic agents such as coils or chemical agents through a small tube (microcatheter) that is positioned in the blood vessels. Embolization is used in many conditions, commons are uncontrollable bleeding from trauma, aneurysm and vascular malformation. It is also used in treating cancer by limiting the blood flow to the tumour.

Embolization procedure may be scary for those experiencing it for the first time. However, patients should not be too worried as it is a minimally invasive procedure. This means that patients are less likely to experience great pain or suffer from major side effects after the procedure is done. Embolization is often guided with ultrasound or live x-ray when placing the catheter before delivering the embolic effect. It is worth noting that embolization may be done together with other surgical procedures especially in case of bleeding.

Before the embolization procedure is performed, patients need to get prepared to ensure the procedure goes well. Patients may be asked to stop eating or drinking before the procedure. Certain medication may need to be avoided before going for embolization. Healthcare professionals will start an intravenous line on the hand. Anaesthesia will be given right before the procedure. Anaesthesia may be in the form of intravenous sedation or general anaesthesia.

After the embolization procedure is done, patients are taken to the recovery room. This is where patients are monitored. Roughly, the embolization procedure will take around 30 minutes but in certain cases, may even up to hours depending on the complexity of the case. Most patients may leave the hospital within 24 hours of the procedure but in cases where pain is significant, the patient may need to be hospitalised for more than a day. Patients should be able to continue with their normal daily life activities within a week.

Although embolization is typically known as a low-risk procedure, there are always possible complications that may come after the procedure. This includes bleeding, infection, inflammation to the catheter insertion such as bruising, swelling and tenderness, blood vessels injuries and blood clot at the puncture site. In rare cases, it may cause blindness. Some people may be allergic to the contrast dye used in x-ray and some may experience reduced kidney function resulting from the contrast dye.

It is worth noting that side effects such as tenderness to the catheter insertion site or bruising is considered normal for a few days. Patients are encouraged to avoid strenuous activities and heavy activities as it may worsen the pain or inflamed parts. Mild headaches for the first few days can be expected. Usage of pain medication should only be used when advised by doctors.

Specifically for children, embolization can cause worries to parents as they may be thinking that children are at high risk for serious side effects. The good news is, the embolization procedure is safe. Healthcare providers will strive to minimise the exposure of x-rays and use the lowest dose possible. Adjustment to the usage of equipment is something that will be taken seriously when performing embolization on children.

Should there be a serious condition following the procedure such as excessive bleeding, unresolved swelling or new bruising or drainage from the insertion site, it should warrant a visit to the doctor. Pain or discomfort that gets worse and uncontrolled even with pain medication should be checked by a doctor. Sudden shortness of breath or fever can be signs of serious impending health conditions. Rare conditions such as stroke should be taken seriously if it occurs after the embolization procedure. Stroke signs include numbness to the face or to the limbs, confusion, sudden slurred speech, difficulty understanding speech, vision changes and loss of balance or coordination. Stroke symptoms often occur suddenly and need emergency care.

It can be concluded that embolization is a procedure done by inserting a catheter to the blood vessel to either reduce or stop blood flow to a certain area. It is a procedure done in many blood vessels. It is a minimally invasive procedure and often not requiring hospitalisation unless in complex or severe cases. Side effects should be mild and minimal for most people after the procedure.