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What Are the Pros and Cons of Aneurysm Embolization?

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  • Written By: Ashley Farris
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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There are several types of aneurysms, including brain aneurysms, arterial aneurysms and heart aneurysms, and each type generally requires one of two treatments: clipping or coiling. Clipping involves placing a clip on the artery wall to stop blood flow into the aneurysm. Coiling, also known as embolization, is a much less invasive process during which platinum wires are coiled inside the aneurysm, thus preventing blood flow in the area. Aneurysm embolization has its clear advantages, including minimal invasiveness and recovery time, and a high success rate. It does have possible drawbacks, such as potential damage to blood vessels and failure to block blood flow completely.

The most apparent benefit of aneurysm embolization is that it is minimally invasive. The procedure involves running a small catheter through an incision in the groin of the patient. A number of soft platinum coils are then inserted into the aneurysm through the catheter. After the coils are inside, blood clots form around the coils, and together these masses prevent blood from flowing into the aneurysm. By contrast, clipping requires a surgeon to remove a piece of skull in order to access the surgical site, so it requires heavy anesthesia.

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Scarring as a result of aneurysm embolization is minimal, because only one small incision is made. The risk of infection is significantly decreased as well, because of the incision size. General anesthetic might be used, but concentrated anesthesia is not necessary in a procedure of this magnitude. These qualities make aneurysm embolization safe for high-risk patients and those who do not respond well to heavy anesthesia.

Aneurysm embolization has a positive prognosis for the majority of patients. Those who have undergone aneurysm embolization have a greater chance of living free of mental and physical disabilities for the first post-surgical year. The risk of death within that year is 22.6 percent lower than that of patients who had clipped aneurysms. High-risk patients or those with disabilities also have a better chance of surviving without limitations or health issues resulting from a more invasive operation.

As with any medical procedure, there are drawbacks. Failure of the coils to prevent blood flow is a major risk, though it occurs in less than 20 percent of patients. If an aneurysm embolization does fail, the procedure can be repeated and generally provides compete blockage after it has been redone.

Damage to the patient’s blood vessels also is a risk, as are bruising, infection and bleeding at the puncture site. Stroke-like symptoms such as speech problems and numbness might occur in some patients. There also might be an allergic reaction to the materials used. These complications are rare and do not present serious risk to the overall health of the patient. Stroke and death, as in any medical procedure, are possibilities but are highly unlikely to occur.

Embolization does carry less risk when performed on aneurysms that have not ruptured. The risks associated with the process, however, are minimal when compared to its positive effects. It is important for one to consult a doctor and do extensive research before moving forward with a serious medical procedure, because doctors might advocate different procedures based on a patient’s individual case. Aneurysm embolization can be a safe and effective option for patients seeking a noninvasive option.

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