Selective Internal Radiotherapy Therapy (SIRT)

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy is available through the Interventional Oncology Service at Spire Southampton Hospital. The Interventional Oncology Service is lead by Consultant Interventional Oncologist, Dr Brian Stedman. Find out more about about alternative treatments for liver cancer available at Spire Southampton Hospital on our Interventional Oncology Service pages. For more information, or to make an appointment call the Interventional Oncology office on 023 8091 4458.

What is Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT)? 

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) is also known as Radio-embolisation. It is a non-surgical treatment for cancer of the liver and involves the injection of millions of tiny radioactive microspheres or beads, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, into the blood supply of the liver. The beads contain a radioactive isotope which emits radiation that travels only a very short distance within the liver. Once they are injected the beads are carried to the liver and help to cut off the blood supply to the tumours, the beads emit the radiation which cause the death of the tumour cells (radiation-necrosis).

University Hospital Southampton, where the SIRT procedure is carried out, is one of 10 UK centres selected to provide SIRT treatment under the current NHS commissioning through evaluation (CTE) process. For more information on CTE on the UK centres selected, visit

Who is suitable for SIRT?

This treatment is only suitable for patients who have malignant liver tumours. A malignant tumour is one that that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and that may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. These tumours may have originated from the liver itself or have spread to the liver from elsewhere in the body (e.g colon or breast cancer). The multi-disciplinary team of cancer specialists will discuss whether the SIRT procedure is suitable for you. Once it has been decided SIRT is a suitable treatment for you Dr Brian Stedman will discuss the treatment with you.

What test and scans will I need?

Before you have Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) you will need to undergo a liver angiogram (an X-ray photograph of blood or lymph vessels) to help plan the procedure and ensure that you are suitable to receive SIRT. The liver angiogram provides a detailed plan of the blood supply to the liver. It is usually carried out a couple of weeks before you have the SIRT procedure.

During the liver angiogram, a catheter is inserted into the hepatic artery via a small cut in the groin area. A local anaesthetic will be used to numb the groin area and a small cut will be made through which the catheter will be inserted.

Contrast is injected through the catheter and images of the blood vessels are taken using X-rays. This usually takes around 60-90 minutes, but in some cases may take longer.

About the SIRT procedure?

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) is also known as Radio-embolisation, or by the tradenames SIRTEX or Theraspheres.

SIRT is carried out by Dr Brian Stedman, Consultant Interventional Radiologist. The SIRT procedure is carried out at Southampton General Hospital (SGH) where their University Nuclear Medicine department is fully equipped to meet the Environment Agency regulations for the licensing and use of radioactive isotopes. Your transfers to and from the SGH which is less than a five minute drive from Spire Southampton will be arranged by Spire Southampton and are included as a part of your treatment.

You will not need an anaesthetic, but you will be given a sedative to help you relax as well as pain relief and anti-sickness medication if you need it.

The treatment involves another angiogram, this angiogram is usually quicker than the previous angiogram because the positioning of the catheter will already have been planned by Dr Stedman. Once the position of the catheter is confirmed SIRT can be given.

During the SIRT procedure millions of little resin or glass beads are injected into the artery that supplies blood to the liver. The beads contain a radioactive isotope that emits radiation and are carried into the liver by the blood. Once they arrive in the liver, the radiation emitted treats the tumour cells. The radiation is delivered within a small area within the liver, thus limiting the damage to other organs. This part of the procedure usually takes about 45 minutes.

After the microspheres have been delivered to the liver, the catheter is removed and a small dressing placed over the cut in your groin.

The entire procedure usually lasts approximately one and a half hours from beginning to end. After the procedure you will be transferred back to Spire Southampton Hospital to recover from the treatment, you will usually need to stay in hospital overnight.

How can I find out more about the SIRT treatment?

You can find out more about SIRT and the common side-effects of the treatment at the following site

Spire Southampton Hospital offers this treatment to self-pay patients and it is also an authorised treatment by some insurance companies. If you would like any more information or are interested in this treatment then contact the Interventional Oncology office on 023 8076 4352.

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