Cerebral Aneurysm Embolization

A cerebral aneurysm is a weak or thin spot on a blood vessel in the brain that balloons out and fills with blood. The bulging aneurysm can put pressure on a nerve or surrounding brain tissue. It may also leak or rupture, spilling blood into the surrounding tissue (hemorrhage). Some cerebral aneurysms, particularly those that are very small, do not bleed or cause other problems. Cerebral aneurysms can occur anywhere in the brain, but most are located along a loop of arteries that run between the underside of the brain and the base of the skull.

Embolization of brain aneurysms uses imaging guidance to place small, soft metal coils into an aneurysm to block the flow of blood and prevent the aneurysm from rupturing. In embolization procedures, physicians use image guidance to place small, soft metal coils within the aneurysm, where it helps block the flow of blood and prevent rupture of the aneurysm. A stent may be used to help keep the coils inside a wide neck aneurysm. A special stent called a flow diverter may be used with or without coils to direct the flow of blood away from the aneurysm and cause it to clot and heal.

When is this procedure recommended?

Embolization is frequently used to treat both ruptured and unruptured aneurysms.

How is the procedure performed?

Using image-guidance, the interventional radiologist inserts a catheter, a long, thin, hollow plastic tube, through the skin and advances it to the site of the aneurysm. For aneurysms one or more coils are inserted through the catheter and placed within the aneurysm, where it is anchored. A stent or flow diverter may be placed in the artery across the aneurysm. The body responds by healing around the coil(s), which helps block the flow of blood into the aneurysm, preventing it from rupturing or leaking. 

What are the benefits?

  • Using detachable coils, stents and flow diverters to close off an aneurysm is effective in prolonging life and relieving symptoms.
  • Embolization is a treatment for cerebral aneurysms that previously were considered inoperable.
  • This procedure is less invasive and requires significantly less recovery time than open surgery.
  • No surgical incision is necessary—only a small nick in the skin that does not need stitches.


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