Embolotherapy refers to various methods of blocking a bleeding blood vessel, preventing further blood loss. Embolotherapy may employ:

  • Chemical agents called sclerosants that scar the inside of the blood vessel, allowing the resulting scar tissue to "dam up" the bleeding vessel
  • Mechanical agents that block a bleeding vessel, including metal coils and latex or silicone balloons
  • Particles or microspheres to shore up bleeding within a vessel, including gelatin foam
  • Liquids that provide a barrier within a bleeding vessel, including injected liquid that quickly turns into a thicker gel-like or spongy mass to prevent bleeding from the vessel

Fibrin glue is a substance made from human clotting factors. These clotting factors can be harvested from donor blood plasma or from a patient's own blood plasma. Fibrin glue can be applied to a bleeding vessel. It both blocks the vessel from bleeding and activates normal clotting/coagulation activity. Because fibrin glue is made from blood products, each individual will need to examine their own conscience to decide if its use is personally acceptable.

Platelet gel concentrates are made from a patient's own blood plasma, mixed with calcium and clotting compounds produced in cows. Platelet gel concentrates can be applied during the course of surgery to control bleeding. As with fibrin glue, platelet gel concentrates are produced from plasma, so their use by some individuals is a matter of conscience.

Biological hemostats are manufactured pads that are woven out of collagen (the kinds of fibers of which skin, tendons, and bones are composed) and cellulose (plant fibers). These pads are placed on bleeding areas during surgery, and appear to help stop bleeding more quickly.


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Review Date: 5/10/2007

Reviewed By: Corey Cutler, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.P.C, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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