What to Expect During Chemoembolization

Image-guided, minimally invasive procedures such as chemoembolization are most often performed by a specially trained interventional radiologist.

X-rays will be taken to map the path of the blood vessels feeding the tumor.

You may be given medications to help prevent nausea and pain, and antibiotics to help prevent infection.

You will be positioned on the examining table.

You will be connected to monitors that track your heart rate, blood pressure and pulse during the procedure.

A nurse or technologist will insert an

I.V. into a vein in your hand or arm so that sedative medication can be given intravenously. You also may receive general anesthesia.

A very small nick is made in the skin at the site.

Using X-ray guidance, a thin catheter is inserted through the skin and into the femoral artery, a large groin vessel, and advanced into the liver. A contrast material is injected through your I.V., and another series of X-rays is taken.

Once the catheter is positioned in the branches of the artery that are feeding the tumor, the anti-cancer drugs and embolic agents are mixed together and injected.

Additional X-rays will be taken to confirm that the entire tumor has been treated.

At the end of the procedure, the catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding. The opening in the skin is then covered with a dressing. No sutures are needed.

Other Factors

You will feel a slight prick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the I.V and when the local anesthetic is injected.

The I.V. sedative will make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You may or may not remain awake, depending on how deeply you are sedated.

You may feel slight pressure when the catheter is inserted but no serious discomfort.

As the contrast material passes through your body, you may get a warm feeling.

Most patients experience some side effects called post-embolization syndrome, including pain, nausea, vomiting and fever. Pain is the most common side effect that occurs because the blood supply to the treated area is cut off. It can readily be controlled by medications given by mouth or your I.V.

If your pain suddenly changes in degree or character, you should contact your physician.

You should be able to resume your normal activities within a week.

Limitations of Chemoembolization

Chemoembolization is not recommended in cases where severe liver or kidney dysfunction, abnormal blood clotting or a blockage of the bile ducts. In some cases—despite liver dysfunction—chemoembolization may be done in small amounts and in several procedures to try and minimize the effect on the normal liver.

Chemoembolization is a treatment, not a cure. Approximately 70 percent of the patients will see improvement in the liver and, depending on the type of liver cancer, it may improve survival rates.