Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT)

Radioembolisation is a procedure where radiation is injected directly into the liver to destroy cancer cells

About radioembolisation

Radioembolisation is also known as selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT). It is used to treat primary cancer of the liver and cancer which has spread from the bowel and other organs. ​It may shrink a tumour enough to make it possible to remove with surgery or be used alongside chemotherapy.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    This procedure is carried out in two stages, usually a few weeks apart. You'll usually be given a sedative for both stages. For the first stage, your consultant will insert a catheter into an artery in your groin. They'll inject dye to highlight your blood vessels and take X-rays so they can see which vessels supply the tumour. They'll then inject tiny coils, to block off other blood vessels. For the second stage, your consultant will insert a catheter into the artery in your groin and pass it into the artery to the liver. Microscopic beads which carry radiation will be injected into the tumour to destroy the cancer cells.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you and answer any questions. It's important to let your consultant know if you're taking blood-thinning medication as you'll need to stop taking it a few days prior to your procedure. You won't be able to eat for six hours before your procedure, or drink anything for two hours before. You may also need a routine blood test to check that your blood clots normally.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    You'll be cared for in hospital for one to two nights. You may experience discomfort, nausea, vomiting, fever and tiredness. Ask a friend or family member to take you home. You'll need to keep your dressing on for four days. You can shower but don’t have a bath until your skin has healed. The radiation stays in your body for a while, so depending on the dose you received, you'll need to take precautions. This includes washing your hands thoroughly after you go to the toilet, sleeping alone for up to three nights, avoiding prolonged contact with children and pregnant women for up to two weeks, and not flying for a week. Before you go home, we'll give you a yellow card with more detailed guidelines.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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