Preoperative portal vein embolization in liver cancer: indications, techniques and outcomes

Romaric Loffroy, Sylvain Favelier, Olivier Chevallier, Louis Estivalet, Pierre-Yves Genson, Pierre Pottecher, Sophie Gehin, Denis Krausé, Jean-Pierre Cercueil


Postoperative liver failure is a severe complication of major hepatectomies, in particular in patients with a chronic underlying liver disease. Portal vein embolization (PVE) is an approach that is gaining increasing acceptance in the preoperative treatment of selected patients prior to major hepatic resection. Induction of selective hypertrophy of the non-diseased portion of the liver with PVE in patients with either primary or secondary hepatobiliary, malignancy with small estimated future liver remnants (FLR) may result in fewer complications and shorter hospital stays following resection. Additionally, PVE performed in patients initially considered unsuitable for resection due to lack of sufficient remaining normal parenchyma may add to the pool of candidates for surgical treatment. A thorough knowledge of hepatic segmentation and portal venous anatomy is essential before performing PVE. In addition, the indications and contraindications for PVE, the methods for assessing hepatic lobar hypertrophy, the means of determining optimal timing of resection, and the possible complications of PVE need to be fully understood before undertaking the procedure. Technique may vary among operators, but cyanoacrylate glue seems to be the best embolic agent with the highest expected rate of liver regeneration for PVE. The procedure is usually indicated when the remnant liver accounts for less than 25-40% of the total liver volume. Compensatory hypertrophy of the non-embolized segments is maximal during the first 2 weeks and persists, although to a lesser extent during approximately 6 weeks. Liver resection is performed 2 to 6 weeks after embolization. The goal of this article is to discuss the rationale, indications, techniques and outcomes of PVE before major hepatectomy.