The role of transarterial embolization in the treatment of renal cell carcinoma




To review the role of transarterial renal embolization in our unit, assessing the indications, tolerability and efficacy of this technique for treating renal cell carcinoma (RCC).


Thirty patients undergoing transarterial embolization between 1991 and 1999 were identified and 25 case notes analysed retrospectively.


Most patients (14 of 25) presented with less advanced (stage I–III) RCC who were unable or unwilling to undergo radical surgery; the remainder (11) presented with advanced (stage IV) disease. The embolizing agent was ethanol, usually combined with stainless steel coils (85% of cases). Procedural pain and fever was controlled successfully. The median hospital stay associated with the procedure was 4 days. At the time of analysis six of 11 stage IV and 11 of 14 stage I–III patients were alive (median follow-up 27 and 39 months, respectively). Symptoms from the primary tumour were well controlled. Overall, 17 of 25 (68%) of patients reported no problems while three (12%) required brief hospital admission for treatment of persistent haematuria. Fourteen patients were subsequently re-staged; the primary tumour in two had increased, in seven remained unchanged and in five it decreased. No patients without metastases developed them and metastases in two patients regressed.


Transarterial embolization is associated with minimal morbidity and complications, and subsequent symptom control is good. The effect of palliative embolization on RCC progression is unknown and requires prospective investigation. Presently, there is no role for cytoreductive embolization; it should be included as a treatment option in clinical trials evaluating such options in patients with metastatic RCC.