Local Ablation and Embolization are common local treatment alternatives for patients unable to have liver surgery.
Patients with no more than a few small tumors who are ineligible for surgery should consider local ablation or embolization. Additionally, these treatments may be used in patients awaiting transplant.
Ablation acts to destroy liver tumors without removing the tumors. The process may involve the use of high-energy radio waves, microwaves , cryosurgical methods (freezing), or concentrated alcohol injections. Embolization is the process of injecting a substance to block or limit blood flow to cancerous cells. This method is often used for tumors larger than 5 centimeters in diameter. There are three types of embolization: TAE, TACE, and radioembolization. TAE (Arterial/ Trans-arterial embolization) uses a tube (catheter) inserted into the hepatic artery to inject tiny bits of material into the artery to block it off. TACE (chemoembolization/ trans-arterial chemoembolization) is a combination of chemotherapy and embolization. Radioembolization is a combination of radiation and embolization.
Treatment is typically provided on an outpatient basis and without the need for a hospital stay, although occasionally patients may require an overnight stay. Ongoing medical visits will precede the treatment, and follow-up visits should be expected.
This treatment is not as successful as surgery, but it is helpful to many patients unable to have surgery or awaiting liver transplantation.
Side effects of ablation or embolization may include: abdominal pain, liver infection, and bleeding in the chest cavity or abdomen. Serious complications are not common, but they are possible.
This treatment is not recommended for all patients with liver disease caused by cirrhosis or hepatitis. Typically this treatment is not suitable for patients with large tumors, with the exception of cyrosurgery.
Insurance sometimes covers at least a portion of this treatment. Contact your healthcare provider for information regarding your exact policy. Costs for these treatments without insurance fall approximately within the $10,000-20,000 range.