What is it?

Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive procedure involving the delivery of anticancer medication directly into the blood vessel that is supplying blood to a cancerous tumor. At the same time, an embolic agent is administered, locking the chemotherapy drugs in the tumor. This allows higher concentrations of medications to be in direct contact with the tumor for an extended period of time.

What is it for?

Chemoembolization is a treatment for liver cancer. It can used for cancer that begins in the liver or cancer that has moved to the liver from other parts of the body. Chemoembolization can:

  • Stop the tumor from growing by blocking oxygen and nutrients from entering it
  • Bring large amounts of chemotherapy medicines to the tumor site
  • Maintain chemotherapy medicines at the tumor site for a long time
  • Reduce side effects to other parts of the body because the medications are concentrated only in the liver

How to prepare

  • You will be given instructions about what to eat and drink prior to the procedure
  • Notify your health care provider about the medications you are taking
  • Preparation and the procedure may take several hours


  • Allergic reaction to X-ray dye
  • Artery damage
  • Blood clots
  • Bruising or infection at the catheter insertion site
  • Gallbladder or kidney damage
  • Liver tissue damage or liver failure

What happens during?

  • An I.V. is used to provide your body with fluids and medicine
  • A small catheter (long, flexible tube) is inserted in an artery of your groin
  • An X-ray dye is injected into the catheter. The X-ray dye allows the artery and catheter to be seen more clearly on X-rays. The movement of the catheter can be observed on a monitor.
  • The catheter is guided to an artery in the liver and to the tumor site.
  • Chemoembolization medicines are infused to the tumor site through the catheter
  • The catheter is removed

What happens after?

  • You will lie flat for several hours while an I.V. continues to provide fluids
  • You may stay in the hospital for several days

Side effects

Contact your health care provider immediately if you are at home and have:

  • Appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain