Interventional Radiology


Yttrium-90 Radioembolization

Radioembolization is very similar to chemoembolization but using radioactive microspheres instead of chemotherapy drugs. This therapy is used to treat both primary and metastatic liver tumors.

This treatment involves injection of plastic or glass microspheres incorporating the radioactive isotope Yttrium-90 directly into the tumor. Each sphere is about the size of five red blood cells in width and looks like a speck of dust. The microspheres are injected through a catheter introduced from the groin and threaded into the liver artery supplying the tumor. The microspheres become lodged in the tumor blood vessels, where they emit their local radiation that causes tumor cells to die. This technique allows for a high local dose of radiation to be delivered, without subjecting healthy tissue in the body to the radiation. The Yttrium-90 radiates from within and can be viewed as "internal" radiation or "brachytherapy."

Radioembolization is a palliative, not a curative, treatment. Patients may benefit by extending their lives and improving their quality of life. Some patients who initially have too much tumor to undergo surgery or transplantation may respond well enough to undergo surgery later. Radioembolization is performed as an outpatient treatment. There are fewer side effects from this treatment compared to standard cancer treatments, with the main one being fatigue lasting a few weeks.

Radioembolization Facts:

Patient Education Series: Radioembolization

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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