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What to Expect from Embolization

Prior to the Procedure

  • Talk to your doctor about any medications/vitamins/herbs/inhalers you are taking or use as you may need to stop certain ones before the test.
  • Discuss any possible bleeding or clotting disorders, liver or kidney disease or a thyroid condition.
  • Do not drink anything for 12 hours prior to your test.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking any required medications (diabetes or blood pressure meds).
  • Please tell your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing or are trying to become pregnant.
  • You will have blood samples taken in case you need a blood transfusion.

On the Day of the Procedure

  • If your doctor approves of you taking required meds, do so prior to arrival with a very small sip of water.
  • The doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

After Your Procedure

  • Your leg where the incision was made will remain elevated for several hours to prevent bleeding. In some cases, a special closure may be used to close the incision site, which can shorten the stay.
  • Your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored closely.
  • You may have a slight headache if you had an embolization for a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM).
  • Most patients leave the hospital within 24 hours of the procedure, but those who have considerable pain may have to stay longer.
  • You should be able to resume your normal activities within a week.
  • If you feel any discomfort, request an ice pack to be applied to the puncture site.
  • You will be able to eat or drink following the procedure.
  • Most patients go home the same day, but that depends on your recovery and your surgeon's instructions.
  • You will have to have a driver to take you home as you cannot drive after the procedure.

Recovery: what to expect in the next few weeks

  • Rest for the first day and slowly resume activities over the next three days, including no exercise or lifting of objects weighing more than 10 pounds.
  • Do not drive or perform any exercise until your doctor says it is OK.
  • You will have bruising at the puncture site. If you notice any bleeding, lie flat and apply pressure to the site for 15 minutes. Remain flat for the next hour. If the bleeding continues for more than 15 minutes, have someone drive you to the closest emergency department.
  • If you notice a sudden increase in swelling at the puncture site, this could indicate active bleeding in the artery. This is an emergency and 911 should be called immediately.

Embolization Q&A

What does the procedure involve?

Medications are given through an IV to calm the patient. During the embolization procedure, the physician inserts a catheter through a puncture in the large blood vessel in the leg called the femoral artery.

Using imaging guidance, the catheter winds to the site of the abnormality through the circulatory system. Once at the site, embolizing materials is released through the catheter to seal the blood vessel.

How long is the procedure?

It depends on the complexity of the case, but most procedures take about 30 minutes.

How long will I remain at the hospital?

You will have to elevate your leg for several hours. Additionally, you will be monitored to ensure that there is no bleeding at the puncture site and that you have regular breathing and heart rate. Most patients are discharged the same day, but some are required to stay overnight.

What is the recovery time?

You will feel better within a day, but should refrain from driving, lifting or exercise until your doctor says it is OK.