Decorative image

Blocking the blood supply to the cancer

Treatment to block the blood supply to the cancer is called arterial embolisation. You might have this if you aren't well enough to have surgery to remove part or all of your kidney. 

What it is

Sometimes a doctor can block off the blood supply to your cancer (arterial embolisation). Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the cancer, so cutting off the supply can make the cancer shrink. 

It's a minor operation done in the x-ray (radiology) department. You stay in hospital at least overnight.

Who has it

You might have this treatment if you have an early stage kidney cancer, but you’re not well enough for surgery to remove part or all of a kidney. 

This treatment is not a cure because the doctors have not removed the cancer. There is still a chance that cancer cells will spread to other parts of the body in the future.

What happens

You take a medicine to make you sleepy.

The doctor puts local anaesthetic on the skin at the top of your leg (groin). They then put a thin plastic tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin.

The doctor moves the catheter upwards until it reaches the artery that carries blood to the kidney. They use x-ray pictures as a guide.

Then the doctor injects a special substance through the catheter into the artery. This blocks the blood supply to the kidney.

They then remove the catheter. The doctor puts a tight dressing on the small wound site on your groin. You go back to the ward to rest.

After surgery

You will need to rest for at least 4 hours. You may have some pain for a day or two. Your doctor or nurse will give you painkillers.

You may also have side effects caused by the breakdown of the kidney cancer cells. They can release toxins that can cause a high temperature (fever), sweats, weakness and lack of energy for a few days. You can take paracetamol every 6 hours until the side effects improve.

Last reviewed: 
07 Jan 2019
  • EAU Guidelines on Renal Cell Carcinoma: 2018
    B Ljungberg and others
    European Association of Urology 2018 

  • MDT Guidance for managing Renal Cancer
    British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS), Section of Oncology and British Uro-oncology Group (BUG), May 2012

Information and help