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Embolization is a minimally invasive therapy to block a blood vessel. It is commonly used to stop bleeding as well as to stop blood flow to a tumor in order to shrink it or in preparation for removal.

Different types of embolization are used for tumors in specific areas of the body. The following are most often used on tumors affecting the liver, bile duct, pancreas and liver.

  • Bland embolization – a treatment option for liver cancer patients where the tumors cannot be removed by surgery because of their location or number of tumors. This can treat tumors that have originated in the liver and tumors that spread from other sites (colon or breast). Through a catheter, small particles are injected to prevent blood flow to the tumor. This is an outpatient procedure.
  • Chemoembolization (LC Beads®) – beads are injected into the vessels to block the blood flow to the tumor, causing it to shrink over time.
  • Portal vein embolization – a procedure that blocks the flow of blood to an area of the liver. Tiny particles are injected into the vein and this blockage redirects the blood flow to the side of the liver that is not being embolized allowing for surgery to be possible.
  • Radioembolization and selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) – SIRT delivers radiation directly to the tumor through millions of microscopic radioactive spheres, called SIR-Spheres®,  where they destroy the tumor by depositing millions of tiny radioactive emitters around the tumor nodules in the liver. These particles act like local radiation therapy directly to the tumors, with very few side effects. The radiation is contained within the patient's body, and continually delivers the radiation over a few days. The microspheres are then no longer radioactive. Patients usually spend four to six hours at the hospital. Learn more about SIRT and watch patient videos.

The Interventional Oncology Program at Inova Fairfax Hospital and Inova Alexandria Hospital draws together a multidisciplinary team of specialists to deliver the best possible outcomes to adults and children with tumors of the liver, bile duct and pancreas. The program is the only one of its kind in Northern Virginia. For more information, call 703-776-3832.