Like aneurysm clipping, coil embolization is used to treat a cerebral aneurysm, a weak portion of a blood vessel (usually occurring at the point it branches out) that leads to a bulging of that vessel that can rupture or break open without warning. To accomplish this a surgeon blocks the flow of blood to the vessel by inserting a coil inside the aneurysm.

A less invasive procedure than many surgeries of the brain—it’s not necessary to open the skull or expose brain tissue during coil embolization—it’s performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. Using a catheter and fluoroscopic imaging, a surgeon inserts a long, thin tube (a catheter) into the patient’s femoral artery (located in the groin) and guides it through the artery to the site in the brain where the aneurysm is located. A small wire within the catheter is “coiled up” inside the aneurysm, blocking the flow of blood to that weak portion of the vessel. The coil is then separated from the wire and it and the catheter are removed. The site of the catheter insertion is secured with bandages and the patient is moved to a recovery room.

A hospital stay for post-surgical observation is typically required—and varies depending on the overall health of the patient as well as how developed the aneurysm was—but recovery from the procedure is quick and a resumption of normal daily activities may occur in as little as a week.