Arterial embolization for kidney cancer

A kidney tumour needs blood to grow. Arterial embolization is a procedure that blocks the blood supply to the kidney tumour to help shrink it. Arterial embolization may be used:

  • to relieve pain or to control the symptoms of advanced kidney cancer (called palliative treatment)
  • before surgery to reduce bleeding from a large tumour during surgery

Arterial embolization is used as palliative treatment for people who are not well enough to have surgery. It is rarely used before surgery because of advances in surgical procedures.

Arterial embolization is done in the x-ray department of a hospital. The doctor places a thin tube (called a catheter) into the large blood vessel in the groin. The catheter is then moved up through the blood vessel, toward the abdomen, until it reaches the renal artery that supplies the kidney with blood. The doctor then injects special gelatin sponges through the catheter into the artery. These sponges get bigger and become solid. This blocks the flow of blood to the kidney tumour. Without nutrients and oxygen from the blood, the kidney tumour will shrink.

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for kidney cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have only a few side effects.

If you develop side effects, they can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after arterial embolization. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after arterial embolization. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated. They can include:

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from arterial embolization. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Expert review and references

  • Alberta Health Services . Renal Cell Carcinoma Clinical Practice Guideline GU-003 . Alberta Health Services ; 2017 :
  • American Cancer Society . Ablation and Other Local Therapy for Kidney Cancer . 2017 :
  • Beck A, Venkatesan AM, Wood B, et al . Ablation of small renal masses. Scardino PT, Lineham WM, Zelefsky MJ & Vogelzang NJ (eds.). Comprehensive Textbook of Genitourinary Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 44F: pp. 755-762.
  • National Cancer Institute . Renal Cell Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version . 2018 :
  • . Catheter Embolization . Radiological Society of North America ; 2018 :
  • Sachdeva K . Medscape Reference: Renal Cell Carcinoma . 2018 :

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