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Vascular Embolization: One Patient’s Lifesaving Procedure

When leading-edge interventional radiology technology and compassionate experts combine, the results can be lifesaving. That was certainly the case when Eric Wang, MD, vascular and interventional radiologist at Charlotte Radiology, performed an emergency vascular embolization on patient Scott Lynn. Thanks to Dr. Wang, Scott’s remarkable story of survival continues.

A Life-Threatening Condition

These days, Scott, who lives in Charleston, SC, is enjoying life as a husband and father of two adult daughters. Years earlier, however, he was in the fight of his life against cancer.

“In the fall of 2017, I started chemotherapy to treat the underlying cancer, and the plan was to deliver three months of chemotherapy, reevaluate and then have surgery,” Scott says. “I had a cardiac reaction to the chemotherapy. I had a heart attack from it. And they decided to do surgery right away. A week after I was discharged, I was lying in bed, and I didn’t feel well. I wasn’t in any pain, and I wasn’t panicked, but something was just off. I reached over and called 911.”

What Scott didn’t know at the time is that he was experiencing catastrophic internal bleeding, a life-threatening condition. A leak from key blood vessels can cause significant internal blood loss and lead to hypovolemic shock. This dangerous condition occurs when blood flow in an area of the body is interrupted, leaving cells and organs without adequate oxygen to function. The patient can experience a variety of symptoms, including dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat.

Fortunately, Scott wasn’t experiencing shock yet when he called for help, but every minute was critical. He needed medical attention fast. Emergency medical personnel rushed Scott to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. There, the medical team quickly realized that Scott needed a minimally invasive procedure called vascular embolization.

What is Vascular Embolization?

In cases like Scott’s, doctors have one goal: stop the bleeding. One method of doing so is vascular embolization. Embolization can stop bleeding and shut down blood supply to specific parts of the body. Doctors use this procedure to treat a variety of conditions, including cancer, aneurysms and uterine fibroids.

To perform a vascular embolization, the interventional radiologist makes a small skin incision in the patient’s groin or wrist to access either the femoral or radial artery. Under live X-ray guidance, the doctor navigates a catheter through the patient’s blood vessels to the site of the blood leak. Once the catheter is in the correct location of the bleeding vessel, the doctor administers material called an embolic agent through the catheter to plug the leak.

Embolic agents take a variety of forms. In Scott’s case, Dr. Wang — the doctor who saved Scott’s life — used thin, flexible, detachable metal coils with thrombogenic fibers to stop the bleeding.

An Expert — and Vascular Embolization — to the Rescue

Soon after Scott arrived at Carolinas Medical Center, Dr. Wang joined his case.

“I was called emergently in by one of our surgeons who had a patient with an active bleed,” Dr. Wang says. “We rushed our interventional radiology team in, and within a short period of time, we were able to identify the area of bleed and navigate through tortuous vascular anatomy to get in the exact location to effectively plug the vessel with some coils that we use quite often within our practice. The reason I used a detachable coil is because we want the coil to be able to track through difficult anatomy to get to the area of bleeding.”

Unlike standard metal coils, the coils we use have fibers that help the blood clot, leading to faster closure of leaky blood vessels than bare metal coils. That’s why Dr. Wang likes using fiber-equipped coils when time is of the essence.

“We don’t have time to sit back and wait a few minutes or an hour,” he says. “Once I pack in those coils, the thrombogenic fibers induce thrombosis [clotting]. We had a very good outcome from this particular procedure.”

It took a vascular embolization, nine units of blood and the removal of a gallon of blood from Scott’s abdomen to save his life. Thanks to Dr. Wang and the rest of the medical team, Scott can look forward to making many more memories with his family.

Leading-Edge Interventional Radiology: Vascular Embolization and More

Sophisticated technology in the hands of experienced experts saves lives like Scott’s. At Charlotte Radiology, our interventional radiologists offer minimally invasive, leading-edge procedures to treat a wide range of medical issues.

Advanced interventional radiology techniques and technologies can be used as alternatives to invasive surgeries, providing better outcomes and helping improve the quality of life for patients. And as Scott’s story shows, they can even save lives.

Learn more about interventional radiology and the minimally invasive procedures that we offer.