Is intra-arterial hepatic chemotherapy painful?

F. Kerbage, T. Grinda, C. Smolenschi, V. Boige, D. Malka, P. Burtin, A. Perret, J. Abdullah, H. Berthou, A. Hollebecque, M. Ducreux

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Liver metastases are mainly supplied by the hepatic artery, allowing the administration of intra-arterial hepatic chemotherapy (IAHC) while preserving normal parenchyma. The progression-free survival and response rate are prolonged by IAHC which can improve the rate of secondary resectability. Severe abdominal pain requiring high-dose opioids can appear during HIAC administration. This pain is related to extrahepatic infusion and gastroduodenal ulceration. However, intense abdominal pain was observed under oxaliplatin IAHC specifically without any extrahepatic infusion. Method: We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 68 patients who received IAHC in our center between 2011 and 2015. Patient’s demographics and disease characteristics were collected. Other variables such as the type, duration, and dosage of the chemotherapy administered, as well as the usage of painkillers before, during, or after intra-arterial administration, were also registered. Results: The mean age of the patients was 59 years. 61.7% were male (n = 42). The mean dose of oxaliplatin administered was 162 mg per cure over 6.7-h course. Fifty percent were diagnosed with a left colon cancer, and 85.2% had synchronous liver metastasis. While 47% of patients received IAHC as a third-line therapy, the main chemotherapeutic drug was oxaliplatin (85.2% of cases; n = 58), then OPTILIV protocol (5FU, irinotecan, oxaliplatin) (13.3%; n = 9), and mitomycin C (1.5%; n = 1). A dose reduction of 23.6% had been noted in 58.8% (n = 40) cases due to adverse effects. Among patients who received opioids during IAHC (n = 40), 20% required opioids in intercure. Before, during, and after IAHC administration, patients complained of abdominal pain in 8.8%, 58.8%, and 19.1%, and opioids were used in 10.2%, 57.3%, and 19.1%, respectively. The main onset of pain occurs during the third cycle of chemotherapy. Among our patients, 11.7% and 22% had ulcer and extrahepatic perfusion, respectively, while 7.3% of them were asymptomatic. The mean occurrence of these signs was during the fourth cycle of IAHC. 33.8% and 52.9% of patients had abdominal pain while an extended and short infusion time, respectively. Conclusion: Lengthening of the infusion time did not prevent the occurrence of abdominal pain significantly but was nonetheless decreased compared with patients undergoing short infusion durations. Pain was more common in patients who did not have a dose reduction and who presented with ulcer and extrahepatic perfusion. Abdominal pain occurred on average one cycle before ulcer or extrahepatic perfusion diagnosis. In current practice, pain should be an alarming indicator in patients receiving IAHC, as it may be associated with ulcer or extrahepatic perfusion and thus requiring opioids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4585-4587
Number of pages3
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Intra-arterial hepatic chemotherapy
  • Metastatic colorectal cancer
  • Pain


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