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Tumour Embolization for Liver Cancer: Before Your Procedure

The digestive system

What is tumour embolization?

Tumour embolization shrinks a liver tumour by cutting off its blood supply.

You may get medicine to help you relax and to help with pain before the procedure. The doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube into an artery near your groin. Or the tube may be put in your arm. This tube is called a catheter. The doctor will guide it into the artery that supplies blood to the tumour. Then the doctor will send a dye that contains iodine through the catheter into the artery. The dye is called contrast material. It shows up on X-ray pictures. It allows the doctor to check blood flow to the liver and the tumour.

The doctor will send chemicals and small particles (like grains of sand) through the tube into the artery. This mixture blocks the artery. The block stops blood from getting to the tumour. This causes the tumour to slowly shrink. The liquid may contain chemotherapy medicine. It helps kill the tumour cells. You may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Bit by bit, the tumour will be replaced with scar tissue in the months after this is done. This will not affect your liver's ability to do its job.

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 call line 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.

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Remove all jewellery, piercings, and contact lenses.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to iodine. Iodine is used in the dye that the doctor will put into your artery.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The procedure will take about 1 to 3 hours.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.