Embolization procedures stop blood flow to a specific blood vessel. Treatment works by placing a substance in the vessel to prevent blood from flowing through it. You may need this procedure if you have excessive bleeding, a vascular malformation or a tumor.
Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that blocks or closes a specific blood vessel. It’s often a planned (elective) procedure. Some cases are emergencies and must be performed right away.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Embolization offers temporary or permanent relief for a variety of conditions by:
Embolization may be used for conditions affecting nearly every area of your body. The procedure can help you if you have:
Embolization uses tiny particles or objects called embolic agents to halt blood flow. Your healthcare provider delivers the agents using long, thin tubes (catheters). The catheter is inserted through a puncture in your skin and follows the path of the blood vessel to reach the treatment area. Instruments at the catheter tip make it possible to carry out the procedure.
An interventional radiologist performs this type of procedure. This medical specialist uses real-time imaging and catheters to navigate your body’s blood vessels and deliver tests and treatments.
Healthcare providers perform imaging studies to assess blood flow and vessels near the treatment area. You may need an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. You may also need to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners.
The agent used depends on your medical needs and the type of blood vessel being treated.
Embolic agent types include:
Here’s what happens during an embolization procedure:
There are many types of embolization. They include:
Due to sedation and numbing medications, you won’t feel discomfort during the procedure. There may be a slight pinch from the needle poke that delivers the numbing agent. You may also feel pressure as your provider inserts the catheter and a warm sensation from the contrast dye.
For many conditions, one embolization procedure is all you’ll need. If you have a large venous malformation, healthcare providers may use a staged approach. This might include one or more treatments every few weeks.
Embolization offers many benefits.
Embolization carries many risks. Your likelihood of experiencing them depends on the location of the procedure and type of embolic agent. Potential risks include:
Most people experience pain at the puncture site. This typically lasts a few days. Some people experience post-embolization syndrome, which includes fever, nausea and vomiting. It can happen with any embolization procedure, but is more common with uterine artery embolization.
Additional side effects depend on the location of the procedure:
Most people need to stay in the hospital for at least one night. During this time, you receive pain medications to help you stay comfortable.
You’ll need to rest and limit physical activity for a few days. Depending on the puncture site, you may need to avoid certain everyday activities:
You’ll also need to avoid strenuous physical activity like lifting heavy objects. Short daily walks can prevent complications like constipation from sedatives and blood clots. You’ll also need to take care of the puncture wound by icing it to relieve swelling and keeping it clean.
Call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Embolization procedures stop blood flow to a specific vessel. It treats conditions such as AVMs, frequent nosebleeds, traumatic injuries and certain cancers. As a minimally invasive procedure, embolization is gentler on your body than surgery. Most people experience less pain during recovery and get back to their daily activities quickly.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/14/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.