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July 26, 2019
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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.
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 is a two-step procedure performed on an outpatient basis on two separate days. In certain situations, this process can be accomplished in a single day, providing multiple benefits for patients who must travel long distances.
First, the patient has an evaluation to map the vasculature supplying the liver and tumors, and to simulate the treatment. This is required to ensure the safest, most personalized approach. To do so, the interventional radiologist will perform an angiogram, a special X-ray exam of the blood vessels. In certain cases, the procedure includes blocking 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 nuclear medicine test to evaluate the estimated radiation exposure to the lungs during radioembolization.
The second step consists of the treatment itself, when the localized radiation is administered to the tumor or portion of the liver containing the tumor. This requires a second angiogram to ensure delivery of the specific radiation dose.
Each procedure is performed with light sedation, which requires patients to fast for eight hours beforehand. Clear pre-procedure instructions regarding current medications are provided at the time of the clinic consultation.
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.
Approximately two weeks after the treatment, a member of the interventional radiology team will be available to address any immediate post-procedure concerns. Further treatment will be evaluated by the members of the multidisciplinary tumor board.
Patients can sign up with MyChart to communicate directly with the treatment team at any time. Sign in or sign up for MyChart.