Chemoembolization of Liver Tumors

What is Chemoembolization of Liver Tumors?

Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive treatment for cancerous tumors of the liver.  During a chemoembolization an Interventional Radiologist uses imaging techniques to guide a catheter to the artery that feeds the liver tumor.  Chemotherapy and small particles are injected directly into the artery.  This treatment method traps the anti-cancer drug in the tumor while also eliminating the blood flow feeding the tumor.

How is the Procedure Performed?

At Tufts Medical Center in Boston, chemoembolization of liver tumors is performed by a specially trained radiologist in the Interventional Radiology department. On the day of the procedure you will come in from home and will stay overnight for observation after the procedure is completed. In the CVC Suite you will have blood samples drawn and will receive several medications to prepare for the procedure.  The procedure is typically performed under sedation; a radiology nurse will administer medications through your intravenous to keep you comfortable.  Once you are positioned on the procedure table your groin will be cleansed and sterilized.  Your physician will then numb the skin and make a small nick in the skin where the catheter will be inserted into your artery.  The physician will use X-ray to guide the catheter to the artery that feeds the tumor.  The tumor can then be treated with chemotherapy, destroying the cancerous cells.  After the chemotherapy has been injected small particles are given to trap the chemotherapy within the tumor, cutting off blood supply to the tumor in the process.  Once the radiologist has treated the liver tumor the catheter is removed and pressure is applied to the arterial puncture site to prevent bleeding.

What Should I Expect After the Procedure?

At the completion of the procedure you will be monitored in an in-patient unit overnight.  You may experience some discomfort after the procedure which will be controlled with pain medications given to you through either your intravenous or by mouth.  You will have to lie flat for four hours after the procedure while the puncture site heals.  It is expected that you will be able to return to normal activity within a few days after your chemoembolization. 

What are the Risks of Chemoembolization?

  • Infection
  • Post embolization syndrome – pain, fever, nausea
  • Damage to the blood vessels
  • Bleeding
  • Non-target embolization
  • Decreased liver functions