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With embolization, doctors inject tiny particles into the hepatic artery to block or reduce the blood flow through the artery. The blockage reduces the blood supply to the cancer cells and kills the tumor. Blocking the hepatic artery also may result in shrinking the tumor enough so that surgery or liver transplantation is possible. Healthy liver tissues are not affected because they also receive blood from the hepatic portal vein. However, embolization does reduce some of the blood supply to healthy liver tissue, so the procedure may be dangerous for patients with chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, whose livers are already damaged.

Embolization is an option for patients with tumors that cannot be removed by surgery. For tumors larger than 5 centimeters, it can be used when ablation is not an option. For smaller tumors (typically 3 to 5 centimeters), these treatments may be used together. * 2.5 centimeters = 1 inch.

Chemoembolization or Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE)

In chemoembolization or transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), the tiny particles that block the artery are first coated with anticancer drugs (chemotherapy) and then injected into the hepatic artery, where the particles block the blood flow for a short period. When the blood flow is blocked, the chemotherapy drugs stay in the tumor longer. Both the chemotherapy and the blockage kill the cancer cells. Chemoembolization is sometimes used to slow down tumor growth in people who are on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

Arterial Embolization or Transarterial Embolization (TAE)

In arterial embolization or transarterial embolization (TAE), a thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted in the femoral artery via the inner thigh and threaded up into the hepatic artery. Once the catheter is in place, small particles are injected into the hepatic artery to block or reduce the blood flow to the cancer cells in the liver.


Radioembolization involves injecting small radioactive beads into the hepatic artery. These beads block the blood vessels near the tumor, where they release small amounts of radiation over several days to kill the tumor.

Side Effects of Embolization

The side effects of embolization include abdominal pain, fever, infection in the liver, gallbladder swelling, and blood clots in the main blood vessels of the liver. Serious complications are uncommon. Some people may feel very tired for several weeks after the treatment.