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Chemoembolization

Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive procedure that combines localized delivery of chemotherapy drugs with a procedure called embolization, which cuts off blood flow to specific blood vessels. The treatment is most beneficial to patients with cancer that is mostly confined to the liver, however, the procedure has been shown to be effective in treating cancerous tumors in other areas of the body.

How it works

During chemoembolization the chemotherapy drugs are injected through a cather directly into the blood vessel that feeds a cancerous tumor. Then the embolizing agent is administered, trapping the anti-cancer drugs in the localized area where they are needed, and keeping the drugs away from healthy tissues. Chemoembolization may be used alone, or it may be used in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or radiofrequency ablation. Treatment is determined depending on the number and type of tumors.

What to expect

You will be wearing a hospital gown during the procedure. At the start of the procedure, you will be positioned on the examining table and X-rays will be taken to map exactly where the catheter will be directed. After the first set of X-rays, you will be connected to monitors to track your heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse during the procedure. A nurse or technologist will insert an IV line into your arm or hand for medications and fluids. You will be under general anesthesia during the procedure.

The skin will be cleansed with a special soap, and possibly shaved, at the site where the catheter will be inserted, and a local anesthetic will be used to numb the site. A small cut is made in the skin at the groin, and the catheter is inserted.

The first set of X-rays is used as a roadmap to direct the catheter. When the catheter is in place, a special dye is injected, and another set of X-rays is taken to ensure that the catheter is in the proper location. When the location is confirmed, the chemotherapy drugs and the embolizing agent will be injected through the catheter. More X-rays may be taken to ensure that the entire tumor has been treated.

Once the treatment has been verified, the catheter is removed and pressure is applied to the incision site to stop any bleeding. A dressing will be applied to the site, but no stitches will be needed.

If more than one tumor is present, an additional chemoembolization procedure may be needed at a later date, depending on the location.

Recovery

You will stay in the hospital overnight so that pain can be monitored.

When you check out of the hospital, you will be prescribed antibiotics, as well as medication for pain and nausea. Fever is common up to one week after the procedure, and fatigue and poor appetite are common for up to two weeks.

You will need to check in with your doctor on a regular basis during the month following the procedure. A CT scan or MRI will be scheduled about a month after the procedure, and about every three months after to monitor the size of the tumor.

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