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UT Southwestern Medical Center’s interventional radiologists are experts in using chemoembolization to effectively treat liver cancer.

Our team coordinates each patient’s complete care – from imaging evaluation to post-procedure follow-up – maintaining a high level of communication throughout the process.

Expertise in Chemoembolization

Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive treatment in which chemotherapy is injected directly into the blood supply of a tumor to destroy it.

Chemoembolization serves to both block the blood supply and allow for higher doses of chemotherapy to be delivered to the tumor, without causing many of the severe side effects that are often associated with regular chemotherapy.

UT Southwestern’s interventional radiologists are specialists in chemoembolization, as well as in treatment of the affected areas of the body and the conditions leading to the procedure. In addition to the training that all radiologists receive, these specialists have advanced fellowship training in interventional radiology, plus extensive real-world experience.

We work in collaboration with oncologists and surgical oncologists from UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and coordinate closely with experts from across the UT Southwestern community when necessary.

Chemoembolization Procedure

First, the patient has an angiogram, a special X-ray exam of the blood vessels, to identify the blood supply to the tumor. Then, using fluoroscopic guidance, radiologists pass a small catheter (tube) through the blood vessels into the artery that feeds the tumor.

The chemotherapy beads are then injected directly into the blood vessel that feeds the tumor. The particles wedge into the blood vessels, blocking blood flow to the tumor and releasing chemotherapy over two to three weeks, killing the tumor.

Preparing for Chemoembolization

Chemoembolization is performed with conscious sedation, a process in which the patient is given medication to feel sleepy but is not unconscious. Conscious sedation requires that the patient fast for eight hours before the procedure.

Most medications can be taken the morning of the procedure, except those that affect blood clotting, such as aspirin, Plavix, Lovenox, or Coumadin. Patients who are taking one of these medications might need to stop taking it or be switched to another medicine for a few days before the procedure. Our team can coordinate the patient’s medication management, if necessary.

What to Expect After Chemoembolization

After the procedure, patients should expect to spend one night in the hospital to receive post-procedure IV pain medicine, if needed. Most patients are able to go home the day after the procedure.

Patients sometimes complain of mild upper abdominal pain and nausea following the procedure. Low-grade fevers can also occur as the tumor begins to die. Patients should expect to be out of work for about three to seven days.