Yttrium-90 Radioembolization

Yttrium-90 radioembolization is an FDA approved minimally invasive technique used to treat inoperable liver cancers. The procedure may also be used to shrink tumors before surgery in other patients. Yttrium-90’s use in liver cancer treatment has been significant, and offers patients practical and effective therapy with minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

The Procedure

To treat tumors, an interventional radiologist or other physician makes a small incision in the groin and threads a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through the arteries up to one of the liver’s two blood sources—the hepatic artery. Blood vessels feeding the tumor are identified under X-ray or ultrasound and the catheter is guided into place for release of the Yttrium-90. Once released, millions of tiny beads that make up the Yttrium-90 complete a twofold purpose. First, the beads stop blood flow to the tumor encouraging death of the cells. Second, the radioactive Yttrium-90 begins to release radiation to destroy the tumor. Radiation is released for approximately two weeks, and the beads can remain in the liver without complication.

A “trial run” is usually completed the week before the procedure to map out the patient’s blood vessels and block off any vessels that travel out to other organs. Most patients who undergo Yttrium-90 radioembolization only will only require one treatment. For patients who need treatment of both the right and left lobes, delivery is scheduled approximately one month apart.


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