Health Information and Tools >  Cirrhosis – Embolization for liver cancer
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Embolization is a procedure used to treat liver cancer.

Your healthcare team may recommend embolization if surgery isn't an option to remove the cancer.

Embolization doesn't usually cure liver cancer, but it can shrink the tumour and slow its growth.

Embolization is usually done by a doctor called an interventional radiologist.

You may need to stay in the hospital, depending on the type of embolization you have.

But some people go home the same day.

Before the procedure, you'll likely get medicine through an IV [intravenous] to help you relax, but you'll still be awake.​

But in some cases, you might get a general anesthetic that puts you to sleep.

You might also get antibiotics to prevent an infection.

The doctor puts a thin flexible tube, called a catheter, into a blood vessel in your arm or leg.

They use an imaging test, like an x-ray, to guide the catheter through your blood vessel until it gets close to the tumour in your liver.

Then, you might need another xray or CT scan to make sure it's in the right place.

To do the embolization, the doctor sends particles through the catheter into the tumor.

These particles block the tumour's blood supply.

Sometimes the particles carry chemotherapy drugs that help destroy the tumor.

When this type of embolization is done, it's called transarterial chemoembolization or TACE.

If the particles deliver radiation to destroy the tumour, this type of embolization is called transarterial radioembolization or TARE.

If you have TARE, you might need an appointment to help you and the team plan the procedure.

This planning appointment can take about 8 hours.

The actual procedure is done on another day.

 You might feel pain, sick to your stomach, or get a fever during or after the embolization.

Your healthcare team will prescribe medicines to help manage these symptoms.

After an embolization, the healthcare team will check on you often.

They might ask you to lie flat for up to 6 hours.

If you go home the same day as your procedure, you can expect to be at the hospital for about 8 hours. ​

After you go home, rest, drink lots of water, and avoid any hard activities.

Don't lift more than 2.2 kg, or about 5 pounds, for at least 10 days.

The procedure may make you feel tired for up to 3 weeks.

Call your doctor or nurse or go to the emergency department if you have bad pain, a fever, bleeding, or are throwing up.

You'll have a follow-up ultrasound, MRI [magnetic resonance imaging], or CT [computed tomography] scan in about 1 to 3 months.

This scan will show how well the embolization worked.

Your healthcare team will then let you know if you need more treatments.

If you don't, they'll let you know when you need more tests to check how you're doing.

Keep paying attention to how you feel. In rare cases, embolization can cause more damage to your liver.

Let your healthcare team know if you develop any new symptoms.

We understand that you may have many thoughts and feelings after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Remember, your healthcare team is here to support you. Reach out to them if you have any questions.

To learn more, please visit cirrhosiscare.ca or MyHealth.Alberta.ca.​