Kidney Embolization Procedure, Side Effects and Recovery Rate

Kidney Embolization came into news recently when First lady Melania Trump underwent surgery on May 14, 2018, to treat a benign kidney condition. During that time a number of people wanted to know more about how and why of Kidney Embolization. Now most of the people know that it is deliberate blocking of blood supply to kidney, but very less people know that why is it necessary, how is it done, what are the recovery rates and if there are some side effects of this procedure.

What is Kidney Embolization ?

It is deliberate blocking of the blood vessel (usually artery), to stop blood supply to whole kidney or a portion of it. It is done using gelfoam, PVA granules or metallic coils. Any one of these blocking objects is inserted through a minimal invasive surgery by making a small cut in the groin region and then inserting a catheter into the blood vessel. The catheter is then moved by using the live x-ray on the TV screen and guided to reach the kidney artery where embolization is required. As it reaches the target site, embolization agent is injected to block the blood vessel. Kidney Embolization is also known as Renal Arterial Embolization, RAE in short.

When do we need Kidney Embolization ?


  • Sometimes it is done before a kidney surgery, so that blood flow to the kidney can be stopped prior to surgery for minimal blood loss.
  • If the surgery is not possible at the site of tumor (inside or near kidney), then Kidney Embolization is done to stop blood supply to the tumor and stop its further growth.
  • Sometimes kidney cancer patients also undergo Kidney Embolization to cut blood supply to cancerous tumors to get relief from symptoms.
  • Kidney Embolization is also done prior to kidney transplant.

Before Kidney Embolization
Four hours prior to the procedure you will not be given any solid food to eat. Two hours before procedure you will also be restricted to drink any fluid. Some blood tests and urine test will be done to test your general condition and any urine infection. A small tube will be put into your veins to give you fluids directly.
After Kidney Embolization
You will need to lie on your back for at least four hours after the procedure. A urinary catheter will be placed into your urethra to drain urine from your bladder. Your nurse will keep checking your puncture site for any inflammation or infection. If everything remains OK then head side of your bed will be elevated for next 2 hours. You may be given some intravenous pain killers to give some relief.

How long you will be hospitalized after the procedure ?
It depends on your overall treatment. If you have also undergone some surgery after kidney embolization, then hospitalization time depends on that as well. If you were hospitalized only for kidney embolization and everything goes well, then you may be allowed to leave bed after 6 hours of completion of procedure.

Side Effects of Kidney Embolization


  • You may experience pain in kidney region as the blood supply is cut. Intensity of pain depends on how much kidney is facing blood shortage. Pain relievers are given to give relief from such pain.
  • Sometimes infection may occur at the puncture site, so doctors keep monitoring that site regularly after the procedure.
  • Some side effects of kidney embolization can occur after few days or weeks. It may include pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.   
  • Some minor side effects may go away on their own, but if they don't then consult your specialist doctor.
  • Sometimes blockages can occur in non-target areas which can create complications.

Kidney Embolization Recovery Rate

  • 90% of Kidney Embolization are done successfully without any major or minor complication in US. Worldwide success rate is 85%.  
  • Kidney Embolization has prolonged survival time of  T2 and T3 Renal Cancer patients.

Note: Kidney Embolization is just one procedure out of many to treat some complicated medical conditions. However it is a non surgical procedure which includes just a puncture in groin area, but it has helped a lot in some surgical procedures as well.
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