Radioembolization

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UT Southwestern Medical Center’s interventional radiologists specialize in radioembolization using Yttrium-90 to provide patients with an effective, minimally invasive treatment option for liver cancer. 

Personalized Care for Each Patient

In a radioembolization procedure, interventional radiologists deliver radiation-laden beads directly into a liver tumor through a small tube navigated through the blood vessels of the liver. 

Radioembolization is used to treat the two types of liver cancer: those arising from the liver, called hepatocellular cancers, and those arising from other organs and spreading to the liver, called metastatic disease.

The decisions for managing these cancers are difficult. There are many treatment options, and each situation is unique. 

At UT Southwestern, patients benefit from a multidisciplinary team of experts, including medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, transplant surgeons, interventional radiologists, and radiation oncologists. These specialists share their expertise in managing liver cancers to help identify the right treatment plan for each patient. 

Interventional radiologists who have advanced training in minimally invasive treatments perform the radioembolization procedure. We believe strongly in collaborative care, knowing that teamwork offers the most benefit to our patients. Yttrium-90 treatments have been offered at UT Southwestern for nearly a decade, and our physicians have vast experience in this treatment.

Radioembolization Procedure

Radioembolization is a three-part procedure performed on an outpatient basis on three separate days. 

First, the patient has an angiogram, a special X-ray exam of the blood vessels. During this procedure, our interventional radiologists map out the blood vessels supplying the liver. They also block off blood vessels supplying tissues outside the liver to prevent radiation beads from damaging other organs. During this initial procedure, the patient also undergoes a test to evaluate the estimated radiation exposure to the lungs during radioembolization. 

The first two procedures are separated by about a week, and the second and third procedures are separated by up to a month. The actual radiation dose is given at the second and third appointments. Usually, half of the liver (either the right or left lobe) is treated in the second procedure, and the other half is treated in the third procedure. 

Each procedure is performed with light sedation, which requires patients to fast for eight hours beforehand. 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. Medication management will be coordinated by our team, if necessary.

What to Expect Following the Procedure

Patients should expect to spend two to four hours after the procedure in the hospital to receive post-procedure IV pain medicine, if needed. Most patients go home the same day. 

Patients sometimes complain of mild upper abdominal pain and fatigue, which can last for a week. Most patients are able to resume normal activities within one week.

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