Tumor embolization is a procedure to shrink a liver tumor by cutting off its blood supply. The doctor put a thin, flexible tube, called a catheter, into an artery near your groin or in your arm. The catheter was guided into the liver artery (the hepatic artery) that supplies blood to the tumor. The doctor sent small particles, chemotherapy, or tiny beads through the catheter into the hepatic artery. This stops blood flow to the tumor, causing it to slowly shrink. The tiny beads may contain chemotherapy or radiation to help kill the tumor cells.
You may go home the same day. Or you might need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer. The area where the catheter was put through your skin into your artery (the puncture site) may be sore for a day or two after the procedure. You will probably have a bruise for at least a week.
You may feel like you have the flu and may feel tired and have a low fever and an upset stomach. You may not feel as hungry as you usually do. This is common. These symptoms usually get better in 1 to 2 weeks.
It may take a month or more to fully get your energy back.
You will have tests in the months after the procedure to check the liver tumor and see how well the treatment worked.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation. If you feel unsteady, have someone walk with you.
- Try not to walk up stairs for the first couple of days.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for at least 2 days or until your doctor says it is okay.
- For 2 to 3 days, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
- You may shower 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor says it is okay. Tape a plastic bag over the puncture site when you shower. Do not take a bath for the first 5 days, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- It may take a month or more to fully get your energy back.
- You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
- Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safe for you. Also, ask how much you can safely take.
- Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) unless your doctor says it is okay.
- If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
Care of the puncture site
- Keep a bandage over the puncture site for the first 2 to 3 days, or until your doctor says you can take it off.
- After the doctor says it is okay to take off the bandage, wash the area daily with warm water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. You can do this two times a day. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You are short of breath.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
- You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
- You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the catheter site.
- Your leg or arm looks blue or feels cold, numb, or tingly.
- Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
- You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness or swelling in your leg.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the puncture site.
- Red streaks leading from the puncture site.
- Pus draining from the puncture site.
- A fever.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
- You cannot pass stools or gas.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Joseph O'Donnell MD - Hematology, Oncology