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Chemoembolization Cancer Therapy

What you should know

Chemoembolization is a procedure used to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. When it is used to treat tumor in the liver, it is called hepatic artery chemoembolization.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • You may need to have the procedure repeated. You may get postembolization syndrome, which includes symptoms such as a fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Chemoembolization may cause severe bleeding, and you may need a blood transfusion. It may also cause fatigue, dizziness, or a fast heartbeat. You may get a bruise or an infection where the catheter was inserted.
  • You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Medicine used during the procedure may cause shortness of breath or a lung infection. It may cause life-threatening harm to your stomach, liver, heart, or brain.

Getting Ready

Before your treatment:

  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any bleeding problems.
  • You may be given antibiotics before or during your treatment to prevent a bacterial infection. Your healthcare provider also may give you medicines that decrease the amount of uric acid in your body. Uric acid is a chemical in your blood that may cause kidney damage during treatment.
  • You may need a CT scan or MRI. You may also need blood tests to check your liver and other functions. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.

The night before your treatment:

Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your treatment:

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • Medicine may be given to prevent your tumor from releasing hormones during the treatment.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • Your healthcare provider will give you an injection of anesthesia in your groin. This will decrease pain and make you more comfortable during your treatment. He will make a small incision, and insert a catheter (small, thin tube) into your liver. The catheter will be guided into your liver until it reaches the blood vessels of the tumor.
  • Your healthcare provider will put the chemo medicine in the catheter. He will then inject a substance to cut off the blood and oxygen supply to the tumor. He may also use a treatment called ablation to help destroy the tumor. Electric currents, lasers, and ultrasound are some ways to cause ablation. He will remove the catheter after all of the treatments are complete. A bandage will be placed over the area where the catheter was inserted.

After your treatment:

You will be taken to a room where you will rest until you are fully awake. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider tells you it is okay. When your healthcare provider decides that you are okay, you may be able to go home. If you are staying in the hospital, you will be taken back to your room. Your healthcare provider may ask you to lie flat on your back. A sandbag may be placed over the wound in your groin to keep it from bleeding. Your healthcare provider may do blood tests and imaging tests such as CT scan or ultrasound to check your blood and arteries.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain in your abdomen that does not go away, even after you take pain medicine.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You are too weak or dizzy to stand.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.