Percutaneous Ethanol Injection

Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) — alternatively called alcohol ablation and ethanol ablation — kills cancer cells by injecting alcohol (ethanol) through the skin to the site of the tumor(s). Your doctor uses a small needle guided by ultrasound or a CT scan to guide the needle into your liver. The procedure may be performed once or twice a week. Usually local anaesthesia is used, but you may need to go under general anaesthesia if you have multiple tumors.

Words to Know

Percutaneous refers to treatments administered through the skin. This may mean injecting medication using a needle, as with PEI, or applying medicine to the surface of the skin, such as with a cream.

PEI is often used as an alternative to surgery when surgery is not possible, and can be effective for certain people with liver cancer. It is generally used in people who have:

  • A single, localized tumor less than five centimeters, or about two inches, in diameter
  • Fewer than four tumors within the liver, all less than three to four centimeters, or between one and two inches, in diameter

PEI is generally not effective for those who have many tumors, or tumors outside the liver.

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