TheraSphereŽ A Radiation Treatment Option for Liver Cancer
TheraSphere® is a treatment which is done in the Interventional Radiology Clinic. If you have more questions after reading this handout, you can call usat (608) 263-8355 between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
What is a TheraSphere® treatment?
TheraSphere® is an outpatient radiation treatment for cancer that starts in the liver (hepatocellular carcinoma) and cannot be removed by surgery. This treatment is FDA approved as a “Humanitarian Use Device”. This means that, as of this time, its effectiveness has not been proven. Case reports and small studies suggest a good response from TheraSphere® (size of the tumor is reduced). It is safe and offers a likely benefit to patients who are good candidates for the treatment.
The treatment involves injecting a large number of tiny radioactive glass beads (TheraSpheres®) into the liver arteries (the blood vessels that bring oxygen to the liver). The TheraSpheres® travel through the blood vessels until they lodge into the smaller blood vessels of the liver tumor. The beads stay there and give off radiation that destroys the cancer cells with little injury to the healthy liver. After 3 days, the beads lose their radioactivity.
Who can get TheraSphere® treatment?
Patients who have cancer that starts in the liver and cannot be removed with surgery may be able to receive this treatment. Your doctor, the Interventional Radiology staff, and the Radiation Oncology staff will review your health history, recent CT scans, and your blood work. They will assess whether you are able to tolerate the treatment. Also, to make sure that you are a good candidate, 3 screening tests need to be done before the treatment.
- A triphasic CT scan is a special type of CT scan. A series of liver x-ray pictures are taken to look closely at your liver blood vessels and to measure the exact size of the liver tumor(s). This will decide the correct dose of radiation for your tumor(s) within the liver.
- An arteriogram of the liver is a test where x-ray dye is injected into the liver blood vessels to see how the blood flows through the liver. This test will provide a “road map” to help plan for the TheraSphere® treatment. Also, smaller blood vessels may be found that could carry some of the radioactive beads away from the liver to your stomach and intestine. These small blood vessels may need to be plugged up (embolized) to prevent the beads from going to your stomach and intestine. If TheraSphere® glass beads were to go to your stomach or intestine, bleeding or an ulcer may occur.
Before the arteriogram, you will receive IV pain medicine and a sedative. Your groin will be numbed with lidocaine. Then, a small tube will be placed in your groin artery and guided to your liver blood vessels. X-ray dye is injected into the liver blood vessels and x-ray pictures are taken. The Interventional Radiologist may need to place small coils within the blood vessels next to your liver. These coils will protect your stomach and intestine from the TheraSphere® glass beads. Your stomach and intestines get blood from many other blood vessels, so in most cases, it is not a problem to block these small blood vessels. After this test, the tube in your groin will be removed. You will need to lie flat for 4-6 hours to allow the groin puncture site to seal up. You will not be able to drive or do heavy lifting for 24 hours after this test.
- While you recover from the arteriogram of your liver, an MAA perfusion scan will be done. This scan shows how much blood flows around your liver and to your lungs. The TheraSphere® dose may need to be changed so that your lungs are not injured. This depends on the amount of blood shunting between your liver and lungs. If there is too much blood shunting to the lungs, you may not be able to have TheraSphere® treatment. You will be placed under a scanner for ½ hour. After this test you will be taken to the recovery area until you are ready to go home.
If these tests show that it is safe for you to have TheraSphere® treatment, you will be set up for the first treatment within the next few weeks. Most of the time, one side of the liver is treated first and the other side is treated about a month later. Sometimes the whole liver is treated at once. It depends on how much liver disease you have and blood supply to the liver.
What can I expect during the TheraSphere® treatment?
You will be prepared just like you were for the arteriogram test. Before the treatment, you will get an antibiotic to prevent infection. Once you have received IV pain medicine and a sedative, your groin will be numbed. After this, a small tube will be placed in your groin artery and guided to your liver blood vessels. The Interventional Radiologist will use the arteriogram “road map” to place the tube in the correct vessels to direct the treatment to the tumor(s) in the liver. X-ray dye is used to make sure the tube is in the correct place. Then the Radiologist will inject the TheraSphere® beads. Once this is done, the tube will be removed from your groin, and you will be sent to the recovery area.
You will need to lie flat for 4-6 hours to make sure your groin puncture site seals up. You will not be able to drive or do heavy lifting for 24 hours. You will be allowed to go home if you live nearby. If you are from out of town, we will arrange a hotel room for you to stay in town that night. You will return to the Interventional Radiology Clinic the next day to make sure you are feeling well.
What side effects can I expect after the TheraSphere® treatment?
For 2-3 weeks after TheraSphere® treatment, most patients feel tired, have a loss of appetite, and a low grade fever. Rarely patients have mild pain for a short time. You will be given pain medicine to control this. A common side effect is a short-term increase in liver function blood tests.
When will I receive my next treatment?
Four weeks after your first treatment, if you are no longer fatigued and your liver function tests are good, we will schedule you for your second treatment. It may be necessary to repeat the arteriogram to plan the next treatment.
How can TheraSphere® treatment help me?
Since each patient is different, it is hard to predict how much you may be helped by TheraSphere® treatment. It has been found to be most helpful to patients who are good candidates for the treatment.
Home Care After TheraSphere®
Please go over the instructions below to avoid problems after your procedure.
- Drink plenty of fluids - Drink at least eight 8 oz glasses of water, juice, or soda over the next 24 hours.
- You may eat what you’d like when you leave the hospital.
- Do not drink any alcoholic beverages for 4 weeks after your SIRT treatment.
- Restart your scheduled medicine as prescribed.
- Take ranitidine 150mg at bedtime for 4 weeks after the procedure.
- You may remove the groin dressing after 24 hours.
- Do not take a hot bath or shower for at least 24 hours.
Activity: No strenuous physical activity of any kind.
- Do not bend the leg that was used for the procedure more than needed for 24 hours.
- Do not lift greater than 10 pounds for 48 hours.
- Avoid strenuous activity such as sports, heavy cleaning, and stair climbing for 48 hours.
- No driving for 24 hours, or while taking pain medicine.
When to Call the Doctor
- You notice redness, swelling, or drainage at the groin site. Some bruising at the puncture site is normal and will go away in a couple days.
- You feel increased pain, numbness, coolness, or see blue discoloration of the leg where the puncture site is located.
- You have abdominal pain that gets worse over time.
- You notice bleeding at the puncture site. Put pressure on the site to stop the bleeding and then call the phone number below.
- You have nausea and vomiting that are not controlled by medicines or lasts for more than 24 hours.
- Fever is common for the first several days. This can be relieved by taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®) 325 mg, 1-2 tablets every 4 hours; or, ibuprofen (Advil®) 200mg, 1-2 tablets, every 4 hours. Call if fever is more than 101°F for two readings taken 4 hours apart.
The spheres used for this procedure are radioactive and take time to become inactive. This means that for 3 days (72 hours) after the procedure, other people that you are around may be exposed to radiation from your body. Please follow these simple guidelines:
Interventional Radiology Department: Mon-Fri. 8:00 am-4:00 pm. (608) 263-8355
After hours, weekends and holidays, this number will give you the hospital paging operator. Ask for Interventional Radiology Resident on call. Give your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live outside the area, please call 1-800-323-8942
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/24/2010
Copyright © 02/24/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6428
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