The surgical removal of a tumor can often be made easier if the blood supply to the mass is decreased prior to surgery. Planned blockage of the blood vessels (embolization) decreases the amount of bleeding encountered by the surgeon, which in turn decreases the need for blood transfusions and typically decreases the duration of the operation.
Tumors occurring in the head and spine that may benefit from embolization include meningiomas, head and neck tumors, paragangliomas and bone tumors of the spine. An embolization is a procedure in which a catheter is placed into the patient's groin and carefully navigated into the blood vessels supplying the tumor under X-ray guidance. An angiogram is obtained by injecting X-ray dye into the blood vessel to examine the blood supply of the tumor and verify that it is safe to eliminate that vessel. Material is then injected through the catheter to block the blood vessel. This procedure is typically performed within a few days of planned surgery for maximum benefit.