What is embolisation of the bronchial arteries?
Bronchial artery embolisation is a treatment for haemoptysis, which is the coughing up of blood or bloody mucus from the lungs or airway. Haemoptysis may be caused by blunt trauma, infections, anatomical defects or tumours.
Bronchial artery embolisation is a minimally invasive procedure which reduces blood flow to the affected veins in the respiratory system and so stops the bleeding.
How does the procedure work?
The aim of the procedure is to stop blood flowing to the vessels which are bleeding in the lung whilst preserving blood flow to the surrounding area. The vessels supplying the lungs with blood are called the bronchial arteries.
The interventional radiologist will insert a 2-3 mm catheter (tube) into a blood vessel in your groin and will guide the catheter under image guidance to the affected blood vessel. They will then insert microparticles (resin particles smaller than a grain of sand) or coils (small metal spirals) into the bleeding vessel or vessels. This prevents blood from entering the vessels and so stops the bleeding.
Why perform it?
If the patient loses a lot of blood as a result of haemoptysis, they may go into shock, which is life-threatening. It is also possible for the patient to drown if the blood goes into their airways.
What are the risks?
Minor risks include bruising in the groin. More significant risks include the risk of the microparticles or coils moving to other areas of your body and blocking other artery branches.
1. Lorenz J, Sheth D, Patel J. Bronchial artery embolization. Semin Intervent Radiol. 2012 Sep; 29(3):155-60.
2. Hurt K, Bilton D. Haemoptysis: diagnosis and treatment. Acute Med. 2012; 11(1):39-45. Review.