What Is HIPEC (Hyperthermic
Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy)?

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, also known as HIPEC treatment, is a type of targeted therapy that uses heated chemotherapy medication(s) to treat tumors within the abdominal cavity. Following surgery to remove visible tumors, HIPEC bathes the area with warm chemo drugs to kill any remaining tumors or precancerous masses too small to see. Patients generally tolerate HIPEC procedures better than traditional chemotherapy because it is delivered to a contained area instead of being distributed throughout the body via intravenous (IV) injection.

The advantages of HIPEC treatment include benefits like:

  • Fewer side effects and complications as a result of treatment
  • Heated chemo penetrates deeper into tissues and expanding blood vessels
  • An increased, targeted dose increases cancer-killing effects in the abdominal cavity
  • A single treatment, instead of multiple sessions, requires less recovery time

Patients with cancers of the peritoneum, stomach, ovaries, appendix, colon, and rectum as well as those with peritoneal mesothelioma or lung cancers that have spread to the abdomen are good candidates for HIPEC.

What to Expect From HIPEC Treatment

Historically, cancers within the space of the abdominal cavity have been harder to treat. Additionally, the odds of chemotherapy curing tumors in this area were low while side effects from treatment were high. HIPEC improves the process by directly applying chemo to the affected area.

The inpatient procedure typically lasts between eight and 10 hours and involves general anesthesia – requiring a monitoring period in intensive care after the operation.

Just before HIPEC is performed, surgeons remove any detectable tumors in the abdomen (known as cytoreductive surgery). Next, the cavity is filled with a combination of chemotherapy drugs (depending on the type of cancer) heated between 106- and 109-degrees Fahrenheit (about 41 to 43 degrees Celsius). The combination (often including cisplatin for lung cancers) is circulated throughout the abdomen during the procedure.
This is an image regarding a statistic about HIPEC Chemotherapy.
Typically, the patient lays on a cooling pad to regulate his or her internal temperature, though HIPEC is only circulated between 30 and 120 minutes in most cases. Throughout the procedure, a surgical team gently rocks the patient’s entire body back and forth to allow the chemo to reach every surface within the cavity. Finally, the HIPEC drugs are drained, the area is cleaned, and the surgical opening is sutured.

Patients are generally required to stay in the hospital for recovery for up to two weeks after HIPEC. During this time, a feeding tube or IV provides nutrition as the organs in the abdomen (primarily those of the digestive system) heal from the direct application of a strong dose of chemo.

Side Effects and Complications

The side effects of HIPEC treatment are generally less severe than those associated with traditional chemotherapy disbursed via the bloodstream. Localizing the action of the chemotherapy to the abdomen greatly reduces the potential for chemo drugs to attack healthy cells around the body. Acute side effects like nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain may occur for up to three months, though some people have experienced complications lasting up to a year.

Possible side effects and complications of HIPEC treatment include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Intestinal leaks
  • Kidney failure
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Pancreatic inflammation
  • Sepsis
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Current studies differ in their estimation of the long-term effects of HIPEC. Some research involving mesothelioma patients exhibited increased survival times between two and six years after the procedure.

Finding HIPEC Treatment

Like other forms of targeted therapy, HIPEC procedures are an emerging treatment and are not available at every cancer treatment center or hospital. There are also several surgical techniques currently in use among cancer care teams today. Different approaches to the CRS and HIPEC procedures include:

  • Bidirectional chemotherapy
  • Intraperitoneal chemotherapy
  • Laparoscopic surgery

For more information about lung cancer treatments like HIPEC, download our free lung cancer guide. Submit a case evaluation form to be contacted by a legal professional about the possibility of compensation for your illness.