About Your Hepatic Embolization

This information will help you prepare for your hepatic embolization procedure at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).

The hepatic artery is the main source of blood for most liver tumors. During your hepatic embolization, your doctor will inject tiny particles through a small catheter (a thin, flexible tube), threaded into your hepatic artery. These particles kill the tumor by blocking the flow of blood that the tumor needs to survive.

Hepatic embolization procedures are performed in Interventional Radiology (IR).

Before Your Procedure

Ask about your medications

You may need to stop taking some of your medications before your procedure.  We have included some common examples below.

If you take medication that affects the way your blood clots, ask the doctor performing your procedure what to do. The doctor’s contact information is listed at the end of this resource. Some examples of these medications are:


tinzapain (Innohep®

prasugrel (Effient®)

warfarin (Coumadin®)     

enoxaparin (Lovenox®)     

dabigatran (Pradaxa®)     

dalteparin (Fragmin®)

clopidogrel (Plavix®)

ticagrelor (Brilinta®)


cilostazol (Pletal®)

ticlopidine (Ticlid®)

Whether he or she recommends you stop taking it will depend on the reason you are taking it. Do not stop taking any of these medications without talking with your doctor.

If you take insulin or other medications for diabetes, you may need to change the dose before your procedure. Ask the doctor who prescribes your diabetes medication what you should do the morning of your procedure.

Please review the information in the resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). It includes important information about medications you’ll need to avoid before your procedure and what medications you can take instead.

If you take any diuretics (medications that make you urinate more often), you may need to stop taking them the day of your procedure. Some examples are furosemide (Lasix®) or hydrochlorothiazide. Speak with your doctor.

Tell us if you’re sick

If you develop any illness (fever, cold, sore throat, or flu) before your procedure, please call a nurse in Interventional Radiology at 212-639-2236. A nurse is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the Interventional Radiology fellow on call.


Note the time of your appointment

A staff member from Interventional Radiology will call you 2 business days before your procedure. He or she will tell you what time you should arrive at the hospital for your procedure. If your procedure is scheduled on a Monday, you will be called on the Thursday before. If you don’t receive a call by 12:00 pm the business day before your procedure, please call 212-639-5051.

If you have an allergy to contrast, take this time to note when you need to start taking the medications your doctor instructed you to take. Take your first dose 10 hours before your scheduled arrival time.

If you need to cancel your procedure for any reason, please call the doctor who scheduled it for you.

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The Day of Your Procedure

Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of clear liquids (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. 12 ounces of clear liquid

Examples of clear liquids include:

  • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé (no particles of dried food or seasonings) 
  • Gelatin, such as Jell-O® 
  • Clear fruit juices (no pulp), such as white cranberry, white grape, or apple 
  • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, or Gatorade® 
  • Coffee or tea, without milk or cream 

Things to remember

  • Take only the medications your doctor told you to take the morning of your procedure. Take them with a few sips of water.
  • Do not apply cream or petroleum jelly (Vaseline®). You can use deodorant and light moisturizers.
  • Remove any jewelry, including body piercings.
  • Leave all valuables, such as credit cards and jewelry, at home.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead, if possible. If you don’t have glasses, please bring a case for your contacts.

What to bring with you

  • A list of the medications you take at home
  • Medications for breathing problems (such as inhalers), medications for chest pain, or both
  • A case for your glasses or contacts
  • Your Health Care Proxy form, if you have completed one
  • If you use a C-Pap or Bi-pap machine to sleep at night, please bring your machine with you, if possible. If you can’t bring your machine with you, we will give you one to use while you are in the hospital.

Where to park

Parking at MSK is available in the garage on East 66th Street between First and York Avenues. To reach the garage, enter East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block toward First Avenue, on the right (north) side of the street. A pedestrian tunnel connects the garage to the hospital. For questions about pricing, call 212-639-2338. There are also nearby commercial garages on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues and on East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Where to go

Please arrive at the main building of MSK at 1275 York Avenue between East 67th and East 68th Streets. Take the M elevator to the 2nd floor. Enter through the glass doors and check in at the desk.

What to expect

Once you arrive at the hospital, doctors, nurses, and other staff members will ask you to state and spell your name and date of birth many times. This is for your safety. Patients with the same or similar names may be having procedures on the same day.

After changing into a hospital gown, you will meet your nurse. He or she will place an intravenous (IV) catheter into a vein, usually in your hand or arm. At first, you will receive liquids through the IV, but it will be used later to give you medication to make you sleepy.

When it is time for your procedure, you will be brought into the procedure room and helped onto an exam table. You will be attached to equipment to monitor your heart, breathing, and blood pressure. You will also receive oxygen through your nose. A member of our clinical team will help position you onto your back. Your groin will be cleaned, shaved, and covered with sterile drapes. A local anesthetic will be injected into the area where your doctor will be working. A catheter (thin, flexible tube) will be threaded through the artery in your groin up to the artery that supplies the blood to your liver. To make sure the catheter is in the right place, an angiogram will be performed. An angiogram is an X-ray test that uses contrast (special dye) to allow your doctor to locate your tumor and arteries. Once your tumor is located, the particles that block the artery will be injected into your artery. When the procedure is completed, your doctor will remove the catheter.

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After Your Procedure

In the recovery room

In the recovery room your nurse will continue to monitor your pain, heart, breathing, and blood pressure. He or she will monitor your puncture site for any bleeding. Depending on how the hole in your artery was closed, you may have to remain flat on your back in bed with your leg straight for up to 4 hours. While you are in the recovery room, tell your nurse if your dressing feels wet or warm. Once your anesthesia has worn off, you will be taken to your hospital room. Most people stay in the hospital for 3 days.

Side effects

You may develop pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or a fever after your hepatic embolization. To help decrease your pain, resume to your normal routine slowly. Refer to the section below for when to contact your doctor or nurse.

At home

Do not swim, sit in a hot tub, or take a bath for 1 week after your procedure. You can start showering 24 hours after your procedure. Remove the bandage and wash the procedure area with soap and water. Gently dry the area with a clean towel. You may want to place a clean Band-Aid® over the area if there is any drainage.

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Call Your Doctor or Nurse If You Have: 

  • Pain, nausea, or vomiting that is uncontrolled or worse than it was before your procedure
  • Redness, swelling, or bleeding around the procedure site
  • A temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Any symptoms that are worrying you

If you have any questions or concerns, please call Interventional Radiology at 212-639-2236. You can reach a staff member Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call 212-639-2000 and ask for the fellow on call for Interventional Radiology.

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