Bland Embolization

If you have primary liver cancer, or cancer that has metastasized to your liver from elsewhere in your body, bland embolization may be part of your treatment. Northwestern Medicine interventional radiology specialists* work closely with your referring physician to ensure you receive the best treatment to meet your needs. In addition, our clinical nurse coordinators assist you in planning, scheduling and following up after your treatment.

What is bland embolization?

Bland embolization is used for tumors that cannot be removed surgically because of their location or the number of tumors present. It is a palliative, not curative, treatment but can be extremely effective in treating primary liver cancers and some types of metastatic tumors—especially when combined with other therapies. The treatment works to reduce (cut off) the blood supply to the tumor.

Your liver is unique because it has two blood supplies. The portal vein provides 75 percent of the liver’s blood supply and the hepatic artery supplies the remaining 25 percent. Tumors that grow in the liver typically receive their blood supply from the hepatic artery, which make bland embolization possible. The procedure is usually done on an outpatient, same-day basis.

Benefits and risks

Bland embolization offers key benefits to you, including:

  • Localized treatment to the tumor, which means it can be done without affecting other parts of your body
  • Prevents the growth of the tumor or tumors in your liver, while potentially shrinking them, preserving liver function and allowing you to have a relatively normal quality of life
  • Can be repeated or used in combination with other types of therapy to control the tumor or tumors in your liver

There are risks following bland embolization, including:

  • Fever (short-term)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Infection or bleeding
  • Small chance of the embolization material or particles becoming lodged in the wrong place and depriving normal tissue in your body of blood supply
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast dye used for the X-ray
  • Kidney damage for those with diabetes or pre-existing kidney disease

Potential effects vary for every patient. Medications are given to help prevent or relieve most of these side effects. In addition, steps can be taken to prevent allergic reactions to contrast dye and lessen the chance of kidney damage for those at risk.

Locations Performing this Treatment

Related Resources

Patient Education: Learn how to prepare for your bland embolization procedure, what to expect during the procedure and recovery and proper care after being discharged.

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