Definition: Embolization (or embolisation) reduces or blocks blood flow to abnormal areas or locations of blood loss or pooling. It may be pathological (in which sense it is also called embolism), for example, a pulmonary embolism, or therapeutic, as a hemostatic treatment for bleeding or as a treatment for some types of cancer by deliberately blocking blood vessels to starve the tumour cells.
Embolization may be used to stop bleeding or to block the flow of blood to a tumour or abnormal area of tissue. It may be used to treat some types of liver cancer, kidney cancer, and neuroendocrine tumours. It may also be used to treat uterine fibroids, aneurysms, and other conditions. Types of embolization are arterial embolization, chemoembolization, and radioembolization.
Embolization is an effective intervention for stopping blood flow to targeted areas. It results in minimal blood loss and allows most patients to avoid general anaesthesia. In addition, unless their condition has caused bleeding, patients who undergo embolization generally have a short hospital stay of approximately one night and will resume normal activities within a week. A few weeks or months may be needed to fully determine whether the embolization has achieved its aim of controlling symptoms (including pain and other tumour-related complications), bleeding, or growths.
Embolization procedures may reduce or cut off the supply of blood to a tumour or abnormal growth. In this procedure, an interventional radiologist uses imaging guidance to insert a catheter into a primary artery and advance it to the blood vessel leading to a tumour or other area where the blood supply needs to be blocked. Special substances which clot and form a blockage are then injected. The success rates of embolization are high, and the procedure is dramatically less invasive than open surgery, making recovery much quicker and easier.
Uses of Embolization: Embolization may often be used to treat internal bleeding and help prevent heavy bleeding during surgery. In some cases, embolization may be a treatment option for difficult-to-reach, inoperable tumours. It may also be used to treat tumours that are too large to be ablated.
Embolization may be used to treat:
- Liver cancer
- Metastatic cancer in the liver
- Kidney cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumours
- Uterine fibroids
Examples of embolization procedures for liver cancer or other cancers that spread to the liver include chemoembolization and radioembolization therapies.