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Transcatheter Arterial Chemoembolization

What is Transcatheter Arterial Chemoembolization?

Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) is a minimally invasive, targeted treatment for some advanced tumors in the liver that doctors can't remove surgically.

Doctors use TACE alone or with other therapies to treat your cancer, as long as your liver functions well.

This treatment works because the liver has two different blood supplies. The portal vein feeds healthy cells, while cancer cells get blood from the hepatic artery.

During TACE, doctors thread a catheter through an artery in your groin to the tumor site. They then embolize, or block, the hepatic artery's blood supply to the tumor and dispense chemo drugs through the catheter.

TACE allows a powerful chemo solution to be in contact with the tumor for a long time. Since the chemo remains at the tumor site, it doesn't kill healthy cells nearby. At the same time, embolization starves the tumor of the blood, oxygen, and nutrients it needs to grow.

TACE Benefits and Risks

TACE isn't a cure for your cancer, but it does help:

  • Slow the tumor growth.
  • Shrink the size of the tumor.
  • Protect the healthy part of your liver.
  • Maintain your liver's function.
  • Improve your quality of life.

As with any medical procedure, there may be some risks.

You might suffer side effects from both the chemo and embolization drugs, such as:

  • Fever.
  • Infection at the incision site or in your blood vessel.
  • An allergic reaction or kidney damage from the contrast dye.
  • Belly pain, bloating, or nausea from the embolization.
  • Low white blood cell or platelet count, anemia, nausea, or hair loss from the chemo. Because it only gets into the liver, these side effects are often mild.
  • Blood clots in the liver's main blood vessels.
  • Liver damage in rare cases.

Cancers We Treat With TACE

Your treatment depends on your cancer type and location. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you.

TACE may be effective for primary liver cancer, or cancer that starts in the liver.

It also works for other cancers that have spread to the liver, such as:


What Can I Expect From Transcatheter Arterial Chemoembolization?

In the weeks before your treatment, you'll meet with your cancer doctor and radiologist. They'll review the process in detail and tell you how to prepare for it.

They may also order the following tests to make sure your organs are strong and healthy:

    Blood work.
  • A CT scan of your belly.
  • An ECG and ultrasound of your heart.
  • Your doctors will ask about any supplements and drugs you take, and if you have any allergies. Make sure you let them know if you have known allergies to medicines or contrast materials.

They may ask you to stop taking certain medications a few days before your treatment.

They'll also tell you if you should fast (i.e., have nothing to eat or drink) and, if so, for how long before your procedure.

Doctors do most TACE procedures in a radiology suite or operating room. It takes about 90 minutes.

Machines will track your vital signs throughout treatment.

You may receive drugs, such as:

  • A sedative to relax you.
  • Antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • Anti-nausea drugs.
  • A local anesthetic so you won't feel any pain.
  • During TACE, your surgeon will make a small cut in your groin. Then they'll use an x-ray for guidance to thread a catheter into the artery until it reaches your liver.

Once it's positioned, the doctor will inject the chemo and embolization drugs. Once the procedure is complete, the surgeon will remove the catheter, close the incision site, and send you to the recovery room.

You'll have to stay in bed for six to eight hours and in the hospital for up to 48 hours for monitoring.

The procedure and medications might cause:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever

Your health care team will give you IV fluids and medicine to manage any side effects.

You might feel tired and have a fever or nausea for a few days, even after you get home. These symptoms will go away but be sure to tell your doctor if your pain level or fever increases suddenly.

Most people can return to work and resume their normal routines in a week. But it may take four to six weeks to fully heal from TACE treatment.

Your doctors will follow your recovery, tumor size, and the appearance of any new tumors.

TACE often kills or greatly reduces the size of tumors in the liver. If you respond well, doctors can repeat the treatment for years to keep tumors in check.

Make an Appointment For TACE Treatment Today

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides the highest level of care to more than 110,000 people each year.

Our cancer surgeons use the latest, minimally invasive techniques to treat your cancer. And, our results are often better than other leading cancer centers, increasing survivorship.

To learn more about TACE and if it's an option for you, contact the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center. Or, call UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-692-2852.