Embolization Therapy: Principles and Clinical Applications, 1 Ed.

Vascular Plugs

Sang Joon Park

Percutaneous embolization has become a common procedure to treat acute bleeding and vascular abnormalities. A permanent occlusion can be created with an embolization procedure with various embolic materials, including polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) particles, embolic microspheres, glue, coils, and occlusion balloons; coils are the most commonly used device.1 The major disadvantages of coils are that multiple coils are often required for the complete occlusion of the targeted vessel and that accurate placement can be challenging depending on the vessel size and blood flow rate. Moreover, the chance of coil migration is always high when embolizing large feeding vessels with a high flow rate. To overcome this shortcoming of coils, the Amplatzer Vascular Plug (AVP; St. Jude Medical, Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota) was introduced and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 for peripheral embolization. The first report on the successful use of the AVP was published by Hill et al.2 in December 2004. Since then, numerous reports have been published in various medical journals. The device has shown an excellent technical success rate for an expanding number of indications,3 and no significant contraindication to embolization using this device has been recognized.4 As described in Chapter 1, new plugs such as the Medusa Vascular Plug (EndoShape Inc., Boulder, Colorado) and the MVP Micro Vascular Plug System (Reverse Medical Corporation, Irvine, California) have been recently introduced. This chapter will focus on use of the AVP given the extensive experience with this device.


The original AVP was derived from the Amplatzer septal occluder and the Amplatzer duct occluder. The AVPs consist of a self-expanding cylindrical nitinol mesh that can be deployed both rapidly and accurately. The elasticity of the nitinol allows the device to become firmly anchored to the vessel wall due to its outward radial force.5 There are radiopaque platinum marker bands at both ends for high visibility under fluoroscopy. The plug is attached to a delivery wire with a stainless steel screw on one of the platinum marker bands.6 One significant advantage of the AVP as an embolic device is that it can be repositioned before final release, which is performed by rotating the delivery wire.

After the introduction of the first AVP, the AVP family has grown to four types: AVP I, AVP II, AVP III, and AVP IV (Fig. 4.1). Each type has a unique design and features making it suitable for different vascular anatomies, hemodynamics, and clinical situations. Subsequently, a newer generation does not mean that it can replace the older type. In appearance, the AVP I has a single lobe, the AVP II has three lobes, and the AVP III and IV have two lobes. In addition, the AVP I and IV have single-layered braids, whereas the AVP II and III have a multiple-layered design, except for the 3-mm AVP II. The characteristics of the AVPs are described in Table 4.1.

The AVP I was the first product of the AVP family. Most of the published case reports have been performed with this device.7 The diameters of the AVP I range from 4 to 16 mm with increases in 2-mm increments. This device is well suited for landing zones that are limited in length.8

The AVP II is the second-generation product in the AVP family; it received FDA approval in 2007. It has been used in various clinical settings,913 but no randomized trials comparing the AVP II with well-established embolization devices has been reported to date. This device is multiple layered and made of more densely woven nitinol mesh than the AVP I, except for the 3-mm device, which is single layered. It consists of three segments with a central lobe and two discs on each side of the lobe. Compared to the AVP I, the AVP II exerts greater radial force, over four axes, and may thus be expected to migrate less and cause more rapid occlusion.14

The AVP III has a unique, oblong, cross-sectional shape and multiple nitinol mesh layers. It also has rims that extended beyond the device body, which may enhance stability. There are only few reports on the clinical application of this device.15 This device received CE mark approval of Europe in 2008.

The AVP IV has a double-cone shape and is mounted on a fixed-core wire guide with a 20-cm floppy distal tip. Unlike other AVPs, it can be delivered through a 4-Fr or 5-Fr diagnostic catheter with a 0.038-in inner lumen without the need to exchange for a sheath or a guiding catheter. This feature enables this device to be used in smaller and tortuous vessels in the arterial or venous vasculature.16,17 This is the biggest advantage of this device over other generations of the AVPs. Like other plugs, the AVP IV can be recaptured and repositioned if necessary. It received CE mark approval in 2009 for Europe and was cleared by the FDA in 2012.


When treating vascular pathology with the AVP, the size of the target vessel and the length of the landing zone for the device must be determined to choose the most appropriate AVP for use. It is currently suggested that the AVP be oversized by 30% to 50% relative to the diameter of the target vessel. The elasticity of nitinol allows the plug to fully expand within the vessel for adequate wall apposition.

Once the device has been selected, the initial consideration for its placement is the determination regarding what catheter will be used to deliver the plug to the site of deployment. A 4-Fr sheath or 5-Fr guiding catheter is required for the AVP I and AVP II, whereas a 4-Fr sheath or 6-Fr guiding catheter is required for the AVP III. Therefore, a relatively straight segment of target vessel with a relatively constant diameter is needed for deployment for the AVP I, AVP II, and AVP III.3

The newest device, the AVP IV, can be delivered through a 4-Fr or 5-Fr diagnostic catheter without an additional sheath or guiding catheter. The combination of low profile and flexible delivery wire tip makes it possible for this device to be used in smaller vessels such as the splenic, lumbar, and gluteal arteries.16 The size of this device is limited, covering vessels with diameters of 2.6 to 6.2 mm, providing the requirement for at least 30% oversizing.

The delivery catheter is not the only part of the system that needs to be advanced to the anticipated site of deployment. The plug and delivery wire must be advanced through the delivery catheter or sheath, and this can be problematic in some cases. The delivery wire is stiff and may be difficult to advance through the delivery catheter. This is especially the case when the target vessels are tortuous. To overcome the tortuosity of the artery, two methods can be used. One is to use a guiding catheter within the sheath to increase the stability and ease of deployment according to Zhu et al.,18 and the other is the use of a larger introducing system to gain access to the landing zone.19

When the desired position of the device is reached, the device can be easily deployed by rotating the cable counterclockwise to complete implantation. Subsequently, repositioning the device is possible before release. Moreover, a test injection of contrast medium is possible through the delivery catheter to verify the location of the device before deployment.5


The AVP has been used successfully for various indications suitable for the use of a mechanical embolic agent. Often, the limiting factors in determining whether a plug would be appropriate to use include the size of the target vessel, the tortuosity of the vessels leading to the site targeted for occlusion, the length of the landing zone, and the nature of the pathology being treated.

Several arterial indications for the AVP have been described. These devices have been used successfully in the internal iliac artery for endoleak prevention before endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR)20 as well as to treat pseudoaneurysms.21 They have also been used successfully for embolization of the gastroduodenal artery before radioembolization with yttrium 90 microspheres. Both the AVP II and IV have been used successfully for this indication.14,22,23 Additional indications include embolization of the proximal splenic artery as treatment for portal hypertension and splenic artery syndrome after orthotopic liver transplantation,18 splenic artery aneurysms,24 and splenic trauma to avoid splenectomy.25,26

The use of the AVPs in the venous circulation has also been reported. These devices have been used successfully in combination with coils and gelatin sponge for portal vein embolization.27,28 In addition, these plugs have been used for the treatment of gonadal vein embolization for varicoceles and pelvic congestion syndrome either alone or in combination with coils or liquid embolic agents.29,30

These devices essentially began in the cardiac setting, treating conditions such as a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and patent ductus venosus (PDV).7 Now, other congenital arteriovenous communication can often be effectively treated with these plugs. For example, pulmonary arteriovenous malformations can be treated with the AVP (Fig. 4.2), which can be advantageous due to the low risk of migration into the pulmonary venous outflow after deployment.19,3133 Other potential applications in this area include splenorenal shunts,34 renal arteriovenous fistulae,35 mesocaval shunts,36 and the rerouting of a scimitar vein to the left atrium.37 Acquired lesions can also be treated with the AVP. This includes the treatment of hemodialysis arteriovenous fistulae that require closure for steal syndrome or enlarging aneurysms38 as well as for either occlusion of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) in the setting of refractory postprocedure encephalopathy or for embolization of varices during TIPS creation.39

There are also potential nonvascular uses of the AVP that have been reported. These include the closure of bronchopulmonary40 and esophagopleural41 fistulae. In addition, the AVP can be used for ureteral occlusion in patients with vesicovaginal, vesicointestinal or ureterointestinal, or uterocutaneous fistulae secondary to pelvic cancers.42


The AVP has been shown to be a safe and effective embolic; complications associated directly with the AVP are rare. Persistent patency after deployment is one area of concern associated with these plugs. This can be particularly seen after embolization of large-diameter, high-flow vessels in coagulopathic patients. It is important to understand that occlusion takes time after deployment of the AVP. When a rapid occlusion is unnecessary, time can be taken for the vessel to occlude after deployment. However, when embolization is being performed for more urgent indications, a supplemental embolic agent may be required for a more rapid occlusion. In these cases, agents such as coils, gelfoam, glue, and additional AVPs can be used as adjuncts for the complete occlusion. Once occlusion occurs, recanalization is rare due to the space-occupying nature of the AVP, but it can occur in approximately 1% of cases compared to 8% to 15% with coil embolization.43,44 Migration is also possible45 but rare due to the radial force seen when the plugs are oversized relative to the size of the target vessel.


• Oversizing of the AVPs at least 30%–50% is crucial.

• AVP I, II, and III require either a sheath or guiding catheter, whereas AVP 4 only requires a standard 0.038-in diagnostic catheter for the deployment. However, be aware of the fact that the maximal diameter of the AVP IV is 8 mm.

• To overcome the tortuosity of the target vessel, the use of a guiding catheter within the sheath can be useful to increase the stability and ease of deployment.


 1. Ferro C, Petrocelli F, Rossi UG, et al. Vascular percutaneous transcatheter embolization with a new device: Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Radiol Med. 2007;112:239–251.

 2. Hill SL, Hijazi ZM, Hellenbrand WE, et al. Evaluation of the Amplatzer Vascular Plug for embolization of peripheral vascular malformations associated with congenital heart disease. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2006;67:113–119.

 3. Mangini M, Lagana D, Fontana F, et al. Use of Amplatzer Vascular Plug (AVP) in emergency embolisation: preliminary experience and review of literature. Emerg Radiol. 2008;14:153–160.

 4. Hijazi ZM. New device for percutaneous closure of aortopulmonary collaterals. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2004;63:482–485.

 5. Lagana D, Carrafiello G, Mangini, et al. Indications for the use of the Amplatzer Vascular Plug in interventional radiology. Radiol Med. 2008;113:707–718.

 6. Schwartz M, Glatz AC, Rome JJ, et al. The Amplatzer Vascular Plug and Amplatzer Vascular Plug II for vascular occlusion procedures in 50 patients with congenital cardiovascular disease. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2010;76:411–417.

 7. Wang W, Li H, Tam MD, et al. The Amplatzer Vascular Plug: a review of the device and its clinical applications. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2012;35:725–740.

 8. Farra H, Balzer DT. Transcatheter occlusion of a large pulmonary arteriovenous malformation using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Pediatr Cardiol. 2005;26:683–685.

 9. Tabori NE, Love BA. Transcatheter occlusion of pulmonary arteriovenous malformation using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug II. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2008;71:940–943.

10. Tuite DJ, Kessel DO, Nicholson AA, et al. Initial clinical experience using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2007;30:650–654.

11. Taneja M, Lath N, Soo TB, et al. Renal artery stump to inferior vena cava fistula: unusual clinical presentation and transcatheter embolization with the Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2008;31(suppl 2):S92–S95.

12. Ringe KI, Weidemann J, Rosenthal H, et al. Transhepatic preoperative portal vein embolization using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug: report of four cases. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2007;30:1245–1247.

13. Brountzos EN, Ptohis N, Grammenou-Pomoni M, et al. High-flow renal arteriovenous fistula treated with the Amplatzer Vascular Plug: implementation of an arterial and venous approach. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2009;32:543–547.

14. Pech M, Kraetsch A, Wieners G, et al. Embolization of the gastroduodenal artery before selective internal radiotherapy: a prospectively randomized trial comparing platinum-fibered microcoils with the Amplatzer Vascular Plug II. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2009;32:455–461.

15. Swaans M, Post M, van der Ven H, et al. Transapical treatment of paravalvular leaks in patients with a logistic EuroSCORE of more than 15%: acute and 3-month outcomes of a “proof of concept” study. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2012;79:741–747.

16. Gu X, Qian Z, Zhao C, et al. A new class of Amplatzer Vascular Plug (AVP-IV) delivered through diagnostic catheters: bench testing and in-vivo assessment (ab). J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2009;20(2)(suppl):S109.

17. Ferro C, Rossi UG, Bovio G, et al. The Amplatzer Vascular Plug 4: preliminary experience. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2010;33:844–848.

18. Zhu X, Tam MD, Pierce G, et al. Utility of the Amplatzer Vascular Plug in splenic artery embolization: a comparison study with conventional coil technique. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2011;34:522–531.

19. Abdel Aal AK, Hamed MF, Biosca RF, et al. Occlusion time for Amplatzer Vascular Plug in the management of pulmonary arteriovenous malformations. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2009;192:793–799.

20. Vandy F, Criado E, Upchurch GR Jr, et al. Transluminal hypogastric artery occlusion with an Amplatzer Vascular Plug during endovascular aortic aneurysm repair. J Vasc Surg. 2008;48:1121–1124.

21. Uberoi R, Chung D. Endovascular solutions for the management of visceral aneurysms. J Cardiovasc Surg. 2011;52:323–331.

22. Bulla K, Hubich S, Pech M, et al. Superiority of proximal embolization of the gastroduodenal artery with the Amplatzer Vascular Plug 4 before yttrium-90 radioembolization: a retrospective comparison with coils in 134 patients. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2014;37:396–404.

23. Pech M, Mohnike K, Wieners G, et al. Advantages and disadvantages of the Amplatzer Vascular Plug IV in visceral embolization: report of 50 placements. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2011;34:1069–1073.

24. Carrafiello G, Lagana D, Dizonno M, et al. Endovascular ligature of splenic artery aneurysm with Amplatzer Vascular Plug: a case report. Cardiovasc Revasc Med. 2007;8:203–206.

25. Widlus DM, Moeslein FM, Richard HM III. Evaluation of the Amplatzer Vascular Plug for proximal splenic artery embolization. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2008;19(5):652–656.

26. Puppala S, Wood A. Re: initial clinical experience using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2008;31:444–445.

27. Libicher M, Herbrik M, Stippel D, et al. Portal vein embolization using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug II: preliminary results [in German]. Rofo. 2010;182:501–506.

28. Yoo H, Ko GY, Gwon DI, et al. Preoperative portal vein embolization using an Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Eur Radiol. 2009;19:1054–1061.

29. Cil B, Peynircioglu B, Canyigit M, et al. Peripheral vascular application of the Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Diagn Interv Radiol. 2008;14(1):35–39.

30. Basile A, Marletta G, Tsetis D, et al. The Amplatzer Vascular Plug also for ovarian vein embolization. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2008;31(2):446–447.

31. Tapping CR, Ettles DF, Robinson GJ. Long-term follow-up of treatment of pulmonary arteriovenous malformations with Amplatzer Vascular Plug and Amplatzer Vascular Plug II devices. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2011;22:1740–1746.

32. Letorneau-Guillon L, Faughnan ME, Soulez G, et al. Embolization of pulmonary arteriovenous malformations with Amplatzer vascular plugs: safety and midterm effectiveness. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2010;21:649–656.

33. Lee DW, White RI Jr, Egglin TK, et al. Embolotherapy of large pulmonary arteriovenous malformations: long-term results. Ann Thorac Surg. 1997;64:930–940.

34. Wang MQ, Liu FY, Feng D. Management of surgical splenorenal shunt-related hepatic myelopathy with endovascular interventional techniques. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18:7104–7108.

35. Shih CH, Liang PC, Chiang FT, et al. Transcatheter embolization of a huge renal arteriovenous fistula with Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Heart Vessels. 2010;25:356–358.

36. Boixadera H, Tomasello A, Quiroga S, et al. Successful embolization of a spontaneous mesocaval shunt using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug II. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2009;33:1044–1048.

37. Singh H, Luthra M, Bharadwaj P, et al. Interventional rerouting of scimitar vein to left atrium using an Amplatzer Vascular Plug. Congenit Heart Dis. 2007;2:265–269.

38. Powell S, Narlawar R, Odetoyinbo T, et al. Early experience with the Amplatzer Vascular Plug II for occlusive purposes in arteriovenous hemodialysis access. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2010;33:150–156.

39. Pattynama PM, Wils A, van der Linden E, et al. Embolization with the Amplatzer Vascular Plug in TIPS patients. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2007;30:1218–1221.

40. Boudoulas KD, Elinoff J, Resar JR. Bronchopulmonary fistula closure with an Amplatzer multi-fenestrated septal occluder. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. 2010;75:455–458.

41. Koo JH, Park KB, Choo SW, et al. Embolization of postsurgical esophagopleural fistula with Amplatzer Vascular Plug, coils, and Histoacryl glue. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2010;12:1905–1910.

42. Pieper CC, Meyer C, Hauser S, et al. Transrenal ureteral occlusion using the Amplatzer Vascular Plug II: a new interventional treatment option for lower urinary tract fistulas. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2014;37:451–457. doi:10.1007/s00270-013-0662-7.

43. Trerotola SO, Pyeritz RE. Does use of coils in addition to Amplatzer Vascular Plugs prevent recanalization? AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010;195:766–771.

44. Milic A, Chan RP, Cohen JH, et al. Reperfusions of pulmonary arteriovenous malformations after embolotherapy. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2005;16:1675–1683.

45. Maleux G, Rega F, Heye S, et al. Asymptomatic migration of a first-generation Amplatzer Vascular Plug into the abdominal aorta: conservative management may be an option. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2011;22:569–570.