Balloon Occlusion Test Procedure Information

Your doctor has recommended you for a balloon occlusion test. There are four main arteries supplying blood to your brain. In most people, there are links between these four arteries that allow for one of the arteries to be blocked without significantly affecting the amount of blood reaching the brain.

The balloon occlusion test is a way to see whether one artery can be temporarily or permanently blocked without significantly affecting the level of blood in your brain. This procedure is usually done if there is a problem (for example, aneurysm or tumor) with one of the four main arteries.

The procedure utilizes an X-ray and a special dye to create detailed images of your arteries and a small balloon, which when inflated will temporarily block your artery. Franklin Moser, MD, director of Interventional Neuroradiology, heads our team of imaging physicians, nurses and technologists who specialize in this procedure.

Before Arriving for Your Exam

  • You will be contacted by a member of our team the day before your exam (between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.) and given instructions on how you should prepare and what time you should arrive. If you are not contacted, please call 310-423-4125 early in the morning of your procedure (such as 6 a.m.).
  • You should have your doctor's office fax all orders and lab results to Cedars-Sinai the day before your procedure: 310-423-0108.
  • You should plan to arrive two hours before your scheduled procedure (three hours if you have not had all your pre-op lab work done.)
  • You should not eat or drink anything from the midnight before your procedure.
  • You should consult with your physician about taking your regular medications prior to your exam. Some medications (such as the blood thinners Coumadin or Plavix) should not be taken before your procedure.
  • You will not be allowed to drive after the procedure, so you should arrange for someone to help you get home.
  • We want to make your waiting time as pleasant as possible. Consider bringing your favorite magazine, book or music player to help you pass the time.
  • Please leave your jewelry and valuables at home and please wear comfortable clothing.
  • Directions and parking information

After Arriving

  • You will meet with an imaging physician who will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you might have.
  • After this discussion, you will be asked to sign a consent form for the procedure.
  • You must notify the nurse, technologist, and/or imaging physician of any allergies you may have, or if you are pregnant, prior to your exam.
  • A small sample of blood will be drawn for testing.

During Your Exam

  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and to lay on a scanning table.
  • An area around your groin will be shaved and cleaned in preparation for the insertion of a catheter (a thin tube). Monitoring devices will be placed on you to keep track of the electrical activity in your brain (an EEG).
  • A local anesthetic will be injected into the catheter site in your groin, and the catheter will be inserted.
  • The imaging physician will direct this catheter through your arteries until it reaches the artery which will be tested. You will not feel the catheter.
  • Once the catheter is in place a special dye will be injected through it. This dye may give you a warm sensation.
  • X-rays will be taken to show the doctors if the catheter is properly situated.
  • Once the position has been determined, the balloon will be inserted through the catheter and inflated, blocking the flow of blood. You will be carefully monitored throughout this test.
  • If there is sufficient blood flow from the other arteries, there will be no change in your brain function. In this case, the balloon will remain inflated for 30 minutes and then removed.
  • If there is insufficient blood flow, then a change in your brain function will quickly become apparent. You may develop weakness in an arm or difficulty speaking. In this case, the balloon will be immediately deflated and removed.
  • The catheter will then be removed and pressure placed on the site of the catheter insertion for 10 minutes.
  • You will need to lie flat for two to six hours after the procedure.
  • The entire procedure might take less than an hour or as long as several hours.

After Your Exam

  • If your home is more than an hour's drive from the hospital, you may need to stay overnight.
  • Your physician will be sent the results of your test and will discuss the results with you and what they mean for your future treatment.