Selective internal radiation therapy

One of the latest liver cancer treatments

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) uses tiny glass beads (microspheres) to send a radioactive element (yttrium-90) through the bloodstream into liver tumors.

Since the radiation goes directly into the tumor, it is more effective in killing cancer cells and saving normal liver function than standard radiation treatments.

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) lasts about an hour. You usually do not need to stay overnight at the hospital.

  • You will be given medicine to help you relax and not feel pain. After the medicine takes effect, you will be brought into the procedure area.
  • A small incision will be made in the groin. A flexible catheter will be guided through the blood vessels and into the liver.
  • Tiny glass beads (microspheres) with the radioactive element (yttrium-90) will go through the catheter, into the bloodstream and directly into the liver tumor.

SIRT is a regional treatment. This means the anti-cancer effect is only on the liver, nowhere else.

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) may be suitable if you:

  • have primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) and good liver function
  • have cancer that started in the bowel or rectum and spread to the liver (liver metastases)
  • have enough healthy tissue to keep the liver working well
  • are not a candidate for other treatments like resection or radiofrequency ablation.

Reviewed By: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 01/23/2006
Last Reviewed: 08/26/2009