Treatment Detail

What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is a procedure in which a radiologist uses different methods to treat abnormalities of the blood and lymphatic vessels, called malformations. The physician can inject liquids or even use a laser to cause destruction to the walls of the malformation, causing it to undergo inflammation and shrinkage. 

About this Treatment

About this Treatment

How do we perform sclerotherapy?

Using ultrasound or x-rays for guidance, the radiologist will insert a small needle into the malformation or guide a catheter to it through the blood vessels. Next, sclerosant medication will be injected into the malformation or a laser will be used to treat the malformed vessel. If injecting a liquid sclerosant, multiple sites might be chosen to ensure adequate exposure of the lesion to the medication. Drainage catheters may be placed for larger lesions. A typical sclerotherapy session takes approximately one hour.

Will my child be awake for the procedure?

Your child will be put to sleep, for which intravenous sedation or general anesthesia is administered.

What are the risks of sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is considered a low-risk procedure. However, potential complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Skin blistering, scarring or ulceration
  • Nerve damage
  • Injury to surrounding structures (skin, nerves or organs)
  • Allergic reaction to X-ray dye or sclerosant
  • Blood in the urine

Will my child have pain after the sclerotherapy?

Your child will not feel pain during the procedure but, often, the injection sites become swollen and tender for many days following the procedure. This is usually controlled by over-the-counter medications but the physician can prescribe stronger medication if necessary.

Pre and Post Operative Care

Pre and Post Operative Care

How do my child and I prepare for the procedure?

We encourage good communication between you and your child, including the necessity and overview of the procedure as well as ensuring them that you are close by the whole time.  Holding them or their hands until they leave for the procedure is a great way to provide support.

You will be given specific instructions along the way but you may need to arrive a few hours before the scheduled procedure to have some blood tests done. When you arrive at the hospital, a doctor will review the procedure and associated risks, after which you will sign a consent form. When we are ready to get started with the procedure, a nurse will place an intravenous line to deliver sedating medications and you will be allowed to accompany your child in the operating room until they are asleep, after which you will be escorted to a waiting room.

What happens after the procedure?

Nurses will monitor your child in the recovery area for 4-6 hours for successful recovery from anesthesia and any immediate complications. The doctor may decide to have your child admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay. As mentioned, there may be some discomfort around the needle insertion sites for some days following the procedure. Bandages and dressing must be kept clean and dry and can be removed 24 hours after the procedure. If a drainage catheter is left in place, you will receive specific instructions for its maintenance.

When can my child bathe?

You child can sponge bath for the first 24 hours while the bandage and dressing are in place, after which shower and full water submersion are allowed. However, if a drainage catheter is left in place, the exit site and dressing must be kept dry and clean until its removal, usually about a week after the procedure. Children with drainage catheters may only sponge bathe during this time.

Are there any activity restrictions?

Though your child may resume normal school-going or daycare attendance, children with drainage catheters must avoid rough-playing or contact sports, which can result in pulling of the catheter.


•Redness, pain, swelling, or bruising at the needle insertion site.

•Fever higher than 101o Fahrenheit or 38o Celsius.

The department of Interventional Radiology can be reached at: 202-476-3791, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

At all other times please call 202-259-8643, which is the on-call pager. Follow the instructions and wait for a call back.

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