Selective internal radiotherapy treatment

Non-surgical treatment treatment malignant liver tumours.

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) is also known as Radio-embolisation, or by the tradenames SIRTEX or Theraspheres.

Why you might need it

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).

This treatment is only suitable for patients who have malignant liver tumours. A malignant tumour is one 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 (eg, colon or breast cancer).

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Who will do it?

Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.

All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.

Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.

Before your treatment

You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.

We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.

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.

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Preparing for your treatment

We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.

For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.

Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.

The procedure

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. 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 usually need to stay in hospital overnight.

Why choose Spire?

We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.

Important to note

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

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