We're interventional radiologists in Houston, TX. So we regularly perform arterial embolization. Using this procedure, we shut off blood flow to certain parts of your body for therapeutic reasons. We use a catheter to inject embolic material to your veins or arteries. Usually, these are plastic beads that are safe for your body, but still block your blood movement. This way, we can treat uterine fibroids or varicocele. (These are swollen veins in your scrotum. Left untreated, they’re a major cause of male infertility.)
When it’s your veins that are affected, embolization can still help. In this case, we inject medication that causes foam to form. Then, it closes the problem spider vein. (We call this sclerotherapy.) Or, when you have a more serious condition—varicose veins—we use directed heat therapy. (Called radiofrequency vein ablation.)
Basically, since the 1970s, we’ve used arterial embolization to treat many vein and arterial complications. But today, doctors are learning how this procedure could treat many other conditions. And with great promise, too! So please join us as we take a closer look!
This is a minimally invasive procedure. That means you won’t need general anaesthetic. Plus, you can usually avoid an overnight hospital stay after arterial embolization. Also, your recovery is much easier than after surgery of any kind.
As we mentioned, interventional radiologists have spent years treating patients with arterial embolization. And that launched many new treatment avenues. After great results with varicocele, doctors now use AE to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). (That condition causes an enlarged prostate.)
Right now, researchers at Imperial College London are exploring whether arterial embolization could manage obesity. In studies, they’re trying to block blood flow to the top of the stomach. Because that's where your body produces a hunger-inducing hormone called ghrelin. And, since hormones travel to your brain through your bloodstream, blocking flow away from the ghrelin production zone could reduce unpleasant hunger pangs. in turn, people might find it easier to lose weight.
Early results are promising. In similar U.S. studies, participants lost up to 10% of their body weight following gastric arterial embolization. Still, London studies are ongoing, so it will likely take some time before this becomes a widespread treatment option.
Right now, patients with liver cancer receive systemic chemotherapy, but much of the tumor-fighting medication gets lost in the bloodstream. To help improve direct deliver—and patient outcomes—researchers are trying to develop a new treatment method, called trans-arterial chemoembolisation (TACE). Like arterial embolization, doctors using this approach would directly deposit chemotherapy drugs into a liver tumor via injection. Then, through arterial embolization, they’d close the hepatic artery, cutting off blood flow to the liver so the tumors lose their source of nutrition.
In this way, treatment offers a two-pronged attack. First, the medication directly targets the tumor. Then, AE cuts off any form of blood flow. And that means tumors can’t get larger while drugs become more effective. While available to some patients in the UK, TACE is still considered a back-up treatment. It's only recommended if surgery isn’t an option.
Finally, Royal Berkshire Hospital is exploring AE for arthritis. It blocks blood flow to the geniculate artery. And that reduces arthritis-related knee pain and inflammation.
While still under investigation, one Japanese study proved that arthritis patients enjoyed 75% less knee pain in the four years after AE. Also, early RBH results came out last year in Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology. They show that patients' knee pain improved by 50% just three months after treatment.
Our team is so excited about all the emerging ways AE could help offer less invasive treatment options to a wide range of patients. But we’re also very proud of the results we can already deliver for patients with arterial or vein health concerns. For that reason, we invite you to schedule an appointment with our Houston and Dallas area vein specialists, and explore less invasive treatment options for vein and arterial disease.
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