Tumor embolization

What is tumor embolization?

Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure in which the blood supply to the tumor is shut down. The tumor size or volume can cause symptoms like pain, recurring bleeding, aesthetic, or functional impairments. The procedure causes the tumor to die, offering symptom relief. Embolization is also used to decrease the risk during certain procedures, such as bleeding, or to decrease tumor size prior to surgery.

What to expect?

Your interventional radiologist will use a contrast agent to create visibility of the blood vessels, after which microparticles, glue, or metallic occluding coils are inserted into the blood vessel(s) to block the blood flow. The procedure will take approximately one or two hours.

Before the procedure, you will get a local anesthetic. Some people are able to go home on the same day, but most people will have to spend several days at the hospital. This is due to the fact that the tumor will die off as a result of the blockage to the blood flow, which can cause pain. Some patients may need an epidural or morphine pump until the pain has diminished.

What are the potential risks and complications?

Relative risks include bruising, edema, liver dysfunction in the case of hepatic artery embolization, and infection. 

The most common complication is the post-embolization syndrome, which occurs in about 20 to 70% of patients. Symptoms include fatigue, mild fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

A small number of patients turn out to be allergic to the contrast agent. The iodine in this contrast medium may, in very rare cases, affect the kidneys.