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Embolization for Brain Aneurysm

A brain aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the wall of a brain artery. If the aneurysm ruptures and bleeds, nearby brain tissues may be damaged. This can cause a stroke, which can be fatal. To prevent these problems, treatment may be needed right away. Your doctor may recommend that you have a procedure called embolization to treat your aneurysm. This sheet tells you more about how the procedure is done.

Understanding the Procedure

Image of the brain

The procedure is done in an X-ray lab. It usually takes about 1 to 2 hours:

  • To keep you free of pain during the procedure, you’ll be given medication. This is called anesthesia. You may be given general anesthesia. This puts you into a state like deep sleep through the procedure. Or you may be given sedation with local anesthesia instead. Sedation makes you relaxed and sleepy. Local anesthesia numbs the areas to be worked on.

  • For the procedure, a long, thin tube called a catheter is used. A small incision is made at the site where the catheter will be inserted. This is most often in the groin. The catheter is then passed through the incision and placed into an artery in the groin. The catheter is moved up through the artery to the brain.

  • Contrast fluid (X-ray dye) is sent through the catheter. This helps the artery and catheter show up better on X-rays. The movement of the catheter can be seen on a video monitor.

  • The catheter is used to place thin metal coils into the aneurysm. These coils cause a blood clot to form in the aneurysm. This clot seals the aneurysm and prevents it from bleeding.

  • When the procedure is complete, the catheter is removed.

After the Procedure

Special metal coils are used to stop an aneurysm from bleeding.

You’ll need to lie still for 4 to 6 hours after the procedure. Pressure may be applied to the site to help reduce the risk of bleeding. Once stable, you’ll be moved to a hospital room. You may need to stay in the hospital overnight if the aneurysm was not yet ruptured. If the aneurysm ruptured and resulted in a stroke, you will remain in the hospital until you recover, possibly for 1 to 4 weeks. This depends on the extent of damage caused by the aneurysm. While you’re in the hospital, more imaging tests will be done to show the precise placement of the coils. These imaging tests also help check that there is no further bleeding.

Risks and Possible Complications of Embolization

  • Bruising, bleeding, or infection at the catheter insertion site

  • Swelling or bleeding in the brain

  • Temporary or permanent neurologic problems including weakness, paralysis, loss of vision, confusion, loss of speech, loss of memory

  • Problems due to contrast fluid, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Blood clots

  • Damage to an artery

  • You may require additional treatment or surgery 

  • Seizures

  • Death

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 12/15/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.