Other therapies liver

There are a number of new specialised surgical treatments for liver metastases, available in a limited number of hospitals across the country.

Microwave ablation

This is a newer ablative technique that uses microwave radiation to heat and destroy cancer cells. The indications for its use are similar to radiofrequency ablation. The advantages are that the technique is quicker than RFA: it only takes three minutes on average to treat a small tumour.


This technique allows multiple lesions (tumours) to be treated in the same session. This technology is currently only available at a small number of centres in the UK.

Hepatic artery chemoembolisation

For this treatment, a thin plastic tube is inserted into a blood vessel in your groin and pushed gently upwards until the tip is in the artery that feeds your liver. A chemotherapy drug mixed with an oily liquid is injected into the liver and the tube is then removed. The chemotherapy stays in contact with the tumour for several hours.


Also known as cryosurgery, this treatment destroys cancer cells by freezing them. It is suitable for tumours up to 4 cm. It may be carried out as part of open or keyhole surgery. The surgeon inserts a probe through a small cut in the skin and into the tumour. The probe creates an ice ball which aims to destroy the cancer cells. Sometimes the frozen area is thawed for up to 15 minutes, then re-frozen. You may have a short stay in an intensive care unit and then two days in a specialist liver ward after this treatment.

Laser therapy

This is also known as laser ablation. A very high powered beam of light is used to destroy cancer cells by heating them to high temperatures. A flexible tube which carries the laser light is inserted through the skin over the liver and into the centre of each tumour, guided by a CT scan or ultrasound scan.


Laser therapy is used on tumours of up to 5cm in size. The treatment takes up to 15 minutes and you can usually go home a few hours later. The treatment can be repeated if the tumours grow back.

Alcohol treatment

This is another treatment to destroy small liver tumours whereby sterile alcohol is injected directly into the tumours, guided by a CT scanner or ultrasound scanner. You may feel intoxicated after the treatment and you will have to stay in hospital for a few hours. This treatment can be repeated if the tumours grow back.