y-90 radioembolization

Y-90 Radioembolization

A new option to treat inoperable liver tumors

The challenge of treating liver tumors

Primary and metastatic cancer of the liver is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat. Surgical removal of liver tumors offers the best chance for a cure. Unfortunately, many liver tumors are inoperable because they may be too large, or have spread to a major blood vessel or other vital areas. Sometimes, many small tumors spread throughout the liver, making surgery too risky or impractical. As a result, surgery is not possible for more than two-thirds of primary liver cancer patients and more than 90 percent of those with secondary (metastasized) liver cancer.

Y-90 radioembolization

A recent advancement in the treatment of primary and metastatic liver cancer, known as Y-90 radioembolization (also sometimes called transarterial radioembolization), may be combined with chemotherapy to treat liver cancer. While not a cure, this innovative treatment can slow the growth of tumors and extend or improve the quality of your life.

Y-90 radioembolization was developed in the 1980s and received FDA approval in 2002. “Y-90” stands for yttrium 90, a radioactive element with a very short half-life of approximately 2.5 days. Thousands of patients have been treated with Y-90 and it has become routine clinical practice throughout the world.

Is Y-90 radioembolization right for me?

This procedure is recommended for patients with single or multiple liver tumors that cannot be treated by surgical resection or ablation, and who may not have responded to chemotherapy.

About the procedure

The procedure is performed in a hospital by an interventional radiologist—a specially trained doctor who uses imaging guidance to direct a tiny catheter through the body’s own vascular system and directly into the arteries within the liver. Once there, the doctor will implant tiny yttrium-90 microparticles (about one-third the width of a single human hair) into the arteries supplying the tumor. There, they become trapped in the microvasculature and release targeted radiation, effectively killing tumor cells while minimizing the effect on the surrounding healthy tissue.


Patients are able to return home within 6 hours of the procedure, reported side effects are low, and the treatment—while not a cure—can extend and/or improve the quality of life for patients with metastatic liver cancer.

Skip to content