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What is an Arterial Embolization?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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The growth of abnormal tissues such as cancers and tumors in the body is often supported by a blood supply. One option in tumor or cancer treatment is to cut the flow of blood to the diseased tissue. This procedure is known as arterial embolization. Arterial embolization entails the insertion of coiled wires or particles in the artery, or several arteries, delivering blood to the tumor to promote its occlusion. This is used to manage several disorders, such as kidney cancer, bleeding in the lungs, and uterine fibroid tumors.

Arterial embolization is often done in the hospital's radiology department, where imaging tests are commonly performed. After sedating the patient, the doctor finds an artery into which he can insert a catheter, or a thin tube, to gain access to the artery supplying the tumor. For instance, in arterial embolization of the uterine fibroid, the doctor enters through the femoral artery in the leg. He then applies local anesthesia to the area, and inserts a needle where the catheter goes through until it reaches the target artery. Through the catheter, small particles are introduced into the artery resulting in the termination of blood flow towards the tumor.

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A series of X-rays are usually taken during the procedure, one before particles are introduced, and another after the procedure to make sure that the process is complete. This arterial embolization process frequently takes less than two hours to finish. Patients are then advised to stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring.

The loss of blood supply in uterine fibroid and kidney cancer during arterial embolization often leads to the shrinkage of the tumor. Healthy tissues in the organs are generally not affected by the procedure. There are few side effects the patient may experience after arterial embolization. These include pain, vomiting, cramping, and nausea, which are often relieved by medications. Bruising and bleeding at the puncture site may also be observed.

Benefits of arterial embolization in patients with uterine fibroid include minimal blood loss, less invasion of tissues than open surgery, and low chances of the uterine fibroid regrowing. This procedure is also frequently used to treat kidney cancer that cannot be removed through surgery. It is said to help relieve the symptoms of kidney cancer due to the tumor's decrease in size. Patients with severe hemoptysis, the medical term for expelling large amounts of blood during coughing, may also be treated with embolization of the arteries in the lungs.

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