Embolization (em-buh-luh-ZAY-shun) is a procedure done by interventional
radiology specialists. In it, they use a long, thin tube called a
to put plugging material or a plugging object into a blood vessel to block
make symptoms better by shrinking a cancer that can't be treated with surgery
or anti-cancer medicines (called palliation or
An interventional radiologist might push a chemotherapy
drug or radiation source into the cancer during embolization treatment.
Embolization can offer advantages over surgery, including:
a shorter hospital stay
no significant scar
What Happens Before Embolization?
The interventional radiologist will discuss the risks and benefits of embolization.
If you choose embolization treatment for your child, you'll sign a consent
(permission) form. The interventional radiology team will schedule the embolization
and talk to you about:
which medicines to give your child, and when to give them
when your child should stop eating
when to arrive
whether your child will stay in the hospital after the embolization
How Is an Embolization Done?
An interventional radiologist does the procedure in a room called an interventional
radiology suite (IR suite). The IR suite is like an operating room
with extra X-ray and ultrasound equipment. The treatment team typically also includes:
an anesthesiologist or anesthetist
nurses and assistants
technologists (equipment specialists)
Before going into the IR suite, a team member will:
Ask your child to change into a hospital gown.
Place an intravenous (IV) line in your child's vein.
Put medicine into the IV so your child will feel sleepy.
team will take your sleeping child to the IR suite. For most embolization procedures,
the interventional radiologist will then:
Make a small incision and insert the embolization catheter into your child's femoral
artery, a large blood vessel near the crease between the pubic area and hip (the groin).
Use X-ray images and videos to guide the tip of the catheter to the blood vessel
to be embolized.
The interventional radiologist may use one of several methods for the embolization:
metal coils that are easily seen on an X-ray and have fibers that trigger a blood
a balloon filled with saltwater (saline)
chemicals that act like glue and plug the vessel
chemicals that irritate the vessel, so it shrinks (sclerosing agents)
tiny balls (particles) that may block the vessel and its branches
The interventional radiologist will check the blood flow to be sure the embolization
worked before removing the catheter.
Can I Stay with My Child During an Embolization?
Parents can stay in the preparation area until their child goes to the IR suite.
Then, you'll move to the waiting area. When the embolization is done, you may go to
the recovery room while your child wakes from the anesthesia.
How Long Does an Embolization Take?
Embolization takes from 30 minutes up to several hours depending on:
how far the embolization site is from the catheter entry site
how many twists and turns the catheter must pass through to get to the right position
the number of vessels to be embolized
the size of the vessels to be embolized
What Happens After Embolization?
Most children go home later the same day. For a few days after the embolization,
your child may:
feel groin pain
feel pain where the vessel was embolized
have groin bruises
not be hungry
If a tumor was embolized, your child may also have these symptoms, which go away
after about 3 days: