Background: Radioembolization is a new tool for the treatment of hepatic tumors that consists in the injection of biocompatible microspheres carrying radioisotopes into the hepatic artery or its branches.
Methods: We have performed radioembolization in 78 patients with hepatic tumors using resin-based microspheres loaded with yttrium-90. All patients were previously evaluated to minimize the risk of hazardous irradiation to nontarget organs and to obtain the data needed for dose calculation.
Results: We report a complication found in three cases (3.8%) that consists of abdominal pain resulting from gastroduodenal lesions and that had a chronic, insidious course. Microscopically, microspheres were detected in the specimens obtained from all affected gastric areas. Since these gastroduodenal lesions do not appear when nonradiating microspheres are injected in animals, lesions are likely to be due to radiation and not to an ischemic effect of vascular occlusion by spheres.
Conclusions: We believe that a pretreatment evaluation that includes a more thorough scrutiny of the hepatic vascularization in search of small collaterals connecting to the gastroduodenal tract can help prevent this awkward complication.