Chemoembolization for Liver Cancer: The Procedure

Woman lying in hospital bed with IV in arm. Man is sitting next to bed. Healthcare provider is checking IV. Chemoembolization is a treatment for cancer in the liver. The procedure can be used for cancer that began in the liver or for cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the liver from other areas of the body. Chemoembolization treats only cancer in the liver. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Preparing for the Procedure

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the procedure.

  • Tell your health care provider what medications you take (including aspirin, supplements, and herbs), and ask if you should stop taking them.

During the Procedure

When you arrive for the procedure, an IV (intravenous) line will be put into your arm. This line will give you fluids and medications to prepare your body for the procedure. Preparation may take several hours. To begin the procedure:

  • A small catheter (long, flexible tube) is placed into an artery in your groin.

  • Contrast medium (X-ray dye) is injected through the catheter. This helps the artery and catheter show up better on X-rays. The movement of the catheter can then be watched on a video monitor.

  • The catheter is guided to the hepatic artery in the liver and moved to the tumor.

  • The chemoembolization medications are injected through the catheter. A substance that blocks the artery is then injected.

  • The catheter is removed. Pressure is put on the insertion site for 15 minutes to prevent bleeding.

  • You will lie flat for several hours. During this time, an IV line continues to give you fluids. You will likely stay in the hospital for 3 to 5 days after the procedure.

Side Effects of Chemoembolization

Side effects include tiredness, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and loss of appetite. These may last for several days. Medications can help lessen certain side effects.