Chemo embolization is a targeted cancer treatment, a type of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), designed to deliver high doses of cancer-killing drugs directly to the tumor while minimizing exposure to healthy tissues. This procedure is particularly used in the treatment of liver cancer, both primary (hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC) and certain types of secondary (metastatic) liver cancers. Here, we delve into the intricacies of chemo embolization, including its procedure, benefits, potential side effects, and its role in cancer treatment.

Understanding Chemo Embolization

Chemo embolization combines chemotherapy and embolization to treat cancer more effectively. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, while embolization involves blocking the blood supply to the cancerous tumor. The procedure is minimally invasive and performed by an interventional radiologist.

The Procedure

The process of chemo embolization usually involves the following steps:

Preparation: The patient undergoes imaging tests (like MRI or CT scans) to determine the location and size of the tumor. Pre-procedure testing may also include blood tests and a review of the patient’s overall health.

Access: The radiologist makes a small incision, typically near the groin, to access the femoral artery. A catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is then threaded through the artery to the liver.

Administration: Once the catheter reaches the vicinity of the tumor, a combination of chemotherapy drugs and embolic agents (substances that block blood flow) is injected directly into the blood vessels feeding the tumor.

Blocking Blood Supply: The embolic agents block the arteries feeding the tumor, trapping the chemotherapy drugs within the targeted area. This not only starves the tumor of its blood supply but also ensures that a high concentration of drugs remains in direct contact with the cancer cells for an extended period.

Completion: After the procedure, the catheter is removed, and the incision is closed. The patient is then monitored for any immediate complications.


Chemo embolization offers several benefits:

Targeted Treatment: It delivers chemotherapy directly to the tumor, maximizing the treatment effect on cancer cells while reducing the impact on healthy cells.

Reduced Side Effects: Because the drugs are localized rather than systemic, patients typically experience fewer and less severe side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy.

Versatility: It can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with other therapies, such as surgery or systemic chemotherapy, to improve outcomes.

Potential Side Effects

Although chemo embolization is less likely to cause systemic side effects than traditional chemotherapy, it is not without risks. Patients may experience:

  • Post-embolization syndrome (symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain)
  • Liver function abnormalities
  • Infection
  • Bleeding at the catheter insertion site

Role in Cancer Treatment

Chemo embolization plays a critical role in the treatment of liver cancers, especially for patients who cannot undergo surgery due to the size, location, or number of tumors, or because of underlying liver disease. It has been shown to prolong survival in patients with HCC and is also used to control symptoms and reduce tumor size in patients with metastatic liver cancer.


Chemo embolization represents a significant advancement in cancer treatment, offering a potent, targeted approach to managing liver cancers. By delivering chemotherapy directly to the tumor and blocking its blood supply, this procedure maximizes the impact on cancer cells while sparing the rest of the body from the full brunt of chemotherapy side effects. As with any medical procedure, it is important for patients to discuss the potential benefits and risks with their healthcare provider to determine if chemo embolization is the right choice for their specific situation.

Our Doctors

Dedicated IR Center for Vascular Problems in Madhya Pradesh

MD, PDCC (INTERVENTIONAL RADIOLOGY) Consultant & Co-Director CVIC (Center Of Vascular & Interventional Care)

MD Radiology, PDCC (Neuro intervention Radiology), PDCC ( HPB Intervention Radiology) FINR (Switzerland) & EBIR
Endovascular Surgeon & Consultant Interventional Neuroradiologist at Care CHL Hospital, Indore Co-director CVIC( center for vascular and interventional care)

Consultant Intervention Radiologist
MD Radiology, PDCC ( Neuro intervention Radiology), FINR ( Fellowship in Neuro intervention Radiology)
Co-director CVIC(Center for Vascular and Interventional Care)

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