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Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is a cancer treatment that involves filling the abdominal cavity with chemotherapy drugs that have been heated. Also known as “heated chemotherapy,” HIPEC is performed after the surgeon removes tumors or lesions from the abdominal area. 

After all visible tumors are removed, cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug, is heated to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) and pumped through the abdominal cavity. The patient lies on a special cooling blanket to keep their body temperature at safe levels during the procedure. Surgeons physically rock the patient back and forth on the operating table for about 1½ -2 hours to ensure that the drug reaches all areas of the abdomen, killing any cancer cells that remain after surgery and reducing the risk for cancer recurrence. The heat makes the drug more effective in killing cancer cells, and it also increases blood flow to the area. 

Benefits of HIPEC

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy has several benefits as compared to standard chemotherapy: 

  • HIPEC is a single treatment done in the operating room, while standard chemotherapy requires multiple treatments
  • 90% of the chemotherapy drug stays within the abdominal cavity, making it less toxic for the patient
  • It allows for a more intense dose of chemotherapy

Heated chemotherapy is used on both adult and pediatric patients to treat soft tissue sarcomas, appendix cancer, Wilms' tumor and other cancers in the abdominal cavity. MD Anderson was the first cancer center in the United States to use HIPEC on children with desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), an extremely rare form of soft tissue sarcoma that causes hundreds of lesions in the abdomen. This therapy has doubled the survival rate of children with DSRCT as compared to standard chemotherapy treatment. 

Side Effects

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy does have some side effects. Patients must be prepared to receive nutrition through a feeding tube or IV for about two weeks, while the digestive system recovers from the intense dose of chemotherapy. 

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center