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Tumour Embolization for Liver Cancer: What to Expect at Home

The liver

Your Recovery

Tumour embolization is a procedure to shrink a liver tumour by cutting off its blood supply. The doctor put a thin, flexible tube, called a catheter, into an artery near your groin or in your arm. The catheter was guided into the liver artery (the hepatic artery) that supplies blood to the tumour. The doctor sent small particles, chemotherapy, or tiny beads through the catheter into the hepatic artery. This stops blood flow to the tumour, causing it to slowly shrink. The tiny beads may contain chemotherapy or radiation to help kill the tumour cells.

You may go home the same day. Or you might need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer. The area where the catheter was put through your skin into your artery (the procedure site) may be sore for a day or two after the procedure. You will probably have a bruise for at least a week.

You may feel like you have influenza (flu) and may feel tired and have a low fever and an upset stomach. You may not feel as hungry as you usually do. This is common. These symptoms usually get better in 1 to 2 weeks.

It may take a month or more to fully get your energy back.

You will have tests in the months after the procedure to check the liver tumour and see how well the treatment worked.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • The first 24 hour after your procedure: Do not drive or operate equipment. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation. If you feel unsteady, have someone walk with you.
  • Do not do strenuous exercise or hard activity for at least 1 to 2 weeks or until your doctor says this is okay.
  • If the catheter was in your groin: Do not lift any heavy objects (more than 4.5 kg or 10 pounds) for 3 days after your procedure. Avoid using stairs where possible for a couple days. Take 1 step at a time, and always lead with the leg that did not have the catheter.
  • If the catheter was in your wrist or arm: Do not lift any heavy objects (more than 2.5 kg or 5 pounds) for 3 days after your procedure. Do not bend your wrist deeply. Be careful when using your wrist and hand to get into and out of a chair or bed. Avoid having your blood pressure checked or an intravenous (I.V.) started on the arm used during the procedure for 24 hours.


  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. Your doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine that your doctor recommends. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Care of the procedure site

  • You will have dressing over the incision (the cut the doctor made). A dressing helps the site heal and protects it.
  • You may have a closure device. This will help to reduce the time spent on bedrest after the procedure.
  • After 24 hours, if your doctor says it is okay, you may remove the dressing and take a shower. Pat the incision dry. Avoid creams, lotions, and ointments on the catheter site. Put on a new dressing every day until the incision is healed.
  • Do not soak the procedure site in a bath, hot tub, or swimming pool until it is completely healed (no longer has a scab).
  • Keep the procedure site clean and watch for bleeding. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

If you start bleeding more than is normal or have a fast-growing, painful lump at the procedure site, call 911 and do the following:

  1. Lie down and call for help (family or friend).
  2. Apply pressure using your fingers or fist at the puncture site. Hold this pressure for 20 minutes.
  3. If the bleeding stops—lie still and keep flat until emergency help arrives.
  4. If the bleeding does not stop—keep firm pressure to the procedure site until emergency help arrives.

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are short of breath.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the catheter site.
  • Your leg or arm looks blue or feels cold, numb, or tingly.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness or swelling in your leg.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the procedure site.
    • Red streaks leading from the procedure site.
    • Pus draining from the procedure site.
    • A fever.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

For more information on embolization for liver cancer, watch this My Health Alberta video: Cirrhosis - Embolization for liver cancer

For more information on liver cancer, go to

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