Tumour Ablation for Liver Cancer: What to Expect at Home
Tumour ablation is a procedure to shrink a liver tumour. It may be done in several ways, such as by sending heat, cold, or chemicals into the tumour. The doctor put a special needle called a probe through your skin into the tumour in your liver.
The area where the needle or probe was put into your skin (the procedure site) may be sore for a day or two after the procedure, and you may have a bruise. You may have a dull pain in your belly or right shoulder for a couple of days. This is called referred pain. It is caused by pain travelling along a nerve near the liver.
You will have tests after the procedure to check the liver tumour to 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 get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Once you have been discharged, you can go home and rest for the day. Have a responsible adult take you home (do not drive yourself). If you live out of town, it's a good idea for you to stay somewhere overnight within 1 hour of an emergency care hospital.
- Don't drive for the next 24 hours or while you're taking strong pain medicine.
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- 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.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as lifting anything heavy that would make you strain, bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
- When you leave the hospital, the procedure site may be covered with a dressing. Keep this dressing in place until the morning after your procedure, then change the dressing as directed.
- It's very important to keep this site clean and dry. You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Do not scrub the procedure site. Pat the site dry. Don't take baths, use hot tubs, or go swimming until the procedure site has no scab and is completely healed. Do not use creams, lotions, or ointments on the procedure site unless your doctor says it's OK.
- Most people are able to return to work within 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure.
- 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. They will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you take blood thinners, ask your doctor if and when to start taking them again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- 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.
- Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) unless your doctor says it is okay.
- 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
- Keep the procedure site covered until it's healed over. Change the bandage every day.
- Leave the first dressing in place until the morning after your procedure. Then change the dressing as directed.
- Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow the healing.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- For the first few days, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes (as long as it feels OK to you) to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. You can do this 2 or 3 times a day.
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?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have signs of shock, such as passing out or feeling very dizzy, weak, or less alert.
- You have severe trouble breathing.
- You have sudden shortness of breath.
- You have very bad (severe) pain in your chest, shoulder or belly.
- You have bleeding from the procedure site that won't stop. For example, bright-red blood has soaked through your bandage, or you have a fast-growing, painful lump at the procedure site.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- New bleeding from the procedure site.
- Yellowing of your eyes or skin that is not normal for you.
- Bruising or swelling at the procedure site that is getting bigger.
- Redness or warmth around the procedure site or drainage (fluid) from the procedure site.
- Trouble peeing or passing stool (poop).
- Pain, swelling, or bloating in your belly (abdomen) that is getting worse.
- Stools (poop) that are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
- Pale-coloured stools (poop) along with dark urine (pee) and itching.
- An upset stomach and you can't keep fluids down (you're throwing them up).
- A fever over 38.5 ºC (101.3 ºF) or chills.
- Any other concerns.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.
Adaptation Date: 3/2/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services