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Spinal Embolization

Spinal embolization is a procedure where bleeding is controlled by applying clotting agents (e.g., coils, particles, glue) using sophisticated imaging technology directly to an area that is bleeding or to block blood flow to a problem area. It is less invasive than traditional surgery.

Spine embolization is a procedure further assisted by a sophisticated imaging technique called rotational angiography, which allows the spine to be scanned from different angles. By creating 3-D images, this technology gives the best assessment of the location, size and shape of the problem area.

When is Spinal Embolization Performed?

Spinal embolization is often performed to block blood flow to a spine tumor, arteriovenous malformation or other abnormality of the spine after it has been identified by angiography. Often, it is used to reduce blood flow to tumors of the spine prior to other surgical procedures.

Benefits of Spinal Embolization

  • Spinal angiography is a very detailed, clear and accurate picture of the blood vessels in the spine. This is especially helpful when a surgical procedure or a neuroradiologic intervention is being considered. By selecting the arteries using a catheter, it allows physicians to assess only the blood vessels.
  • Unlike computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) angiography, the use of a catheter makes it possible to combine diagnosis and treatment into one procedure.
  • The degree of detail displayed by catheter angiography cannot be obtained with any other noninvasive procedure.

Risks of Spinal Embolization

  • Some patients can have an unusual allergic reaction to the contrast. Reactions range from mild skin irritation, itching, a drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness or death. These reactions only happen in approximately 1/50,000 to 1/150,000 people. You should tell your doctor of a previous allergy history prior to the test.
  • There is a very small risk that blood will form a clot around the tip of the catheter, blocking the artery and causing a stroke. The chance of developing a permanent stroke (weakness, numbness, or paralysis) as the result of a cerebral angiogram is approximately 0.5%.
  • If you have diabetes or kidney disease, your kidneys could be injured when contrast material is eliminated through the urine.
  • Very rarely, the catheter can injure the vessel wall.
  • Very rarely the blood vessel the catheter was inserted into becomes blocked and prevents blood from going to your lower leg and foot. This requires an emergency operation to reopen the blocked blood vessel.
  • Delayed bleeding at the site of catheter insertion is very uncommon but it is the major reason that you are observed for four to six hours after your test is completed.
  • With interventional radiology procedures using x-rays, the level of risk depends on the type of procedure because some use very little radiation, while complex procedures use more.
  • Women should always inform their doctor if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.