You may have general anesthesia and a breathing tube. Or, you may be given medication to relax you, but not enough to put you to sleep.
A small surgical needle hole will be made in the groin area. The health care provider will use a needle to create a hole in the femoral artery, a large blood vessel.
A tiny, flexible tube called a catheter is passed through the open skin and into the artery.
Dye is injected through this tube so that the blood vessel can be seen on x-ray images.
The health care provider gently moves the catheter through the blood vessel up to the area being studied.
Once the catheter is in place, the health care provider places small plastic particles, glue, metal coils, foam, or a balloon through it to seal off the bad blood vessel. (If coils are used, it is called coil embolization.)
This procedure can take several hours.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
The procedure is most often used to treat aneurysms in the brain. But it may be used for other medical conditions when open surgery is considered risky. The goal of the treatment is to prevent bleeding in the problem area and to reduce the risk that the blood vessel will break open (rupture).
Not all aneurysms need to be treated right away. Those that are very small (less than 3 mm) are less likely to break open.
Your doctor will help you decide whether it is safer to have surgery to block off the aneurysm before it can rupture.
Carotid artery cavernous fistula (a problem with the large artery in the neck)
Bleeding at the site of the needle puncture
Bleeding in the brain
Damage to the artery where the needle is inserted
Dislodged coil or balloon
Failure to completely treat the abnormal blood vessel
Symptoms that keep returning
Before the Procedure
This procedure is often performed on an emergency basis. If it is not an emergency:
Tell your doctor or nurse what drugs or herbs you are taking and if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol.
Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of the surgery.
Try to stop smoking.
You will usually be asked not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the surgery.
Take the medicines your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
Arrive at the hospital on time.
After the Procedure
If there was no bleeding before the procedure, you may need to stay in the hospital for 1 - 2 days.
If bleeding occurred, your hospital stay will be longer.
How fast you recover depends on your overall health, the severity of your medical condition, and other factors.
In most cases, endovascular embolization is a successful procedure with good outcomes.
The outlook also depends on any brain damage that occurred from bleeding before, during, or after the surgery.
Brinjikji W, Lanzino G, Cloft HJ, Rabinstein A, Kallmes DF. Endovascular treatment of very small (3 mm or smaller) intracranial aneurysms: report of a consecutive series and a meta-analysis. Stroke. 2010;41:116-121.
Mack W, Dusick JR, Martin N, Gonzalez N. Principles of endovascular therapy. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012: chap 47.
Meyers PM, Schumacher HC, Higashida RT, Barnwell SL, Craeger MA, Gupta R, et al. American Heart Association Indications for the performance of intracranial endovascular neurointerventional procedures: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention, Stroke Council, Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia, Interdisciplinary Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease, and Interdisciplinary Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. Circulation. 2009;119:2235-2249.
Matthew M. Cooper, MD, FACS, Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery, HealthEast Care System, St. Paul, MN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.