A New Procedure Called HIPEC Offers New Treatment Options for Cancer Patients

  • Following the surgical removal of visible tumors in the abdomen (debulking), the abdominal cavity is bathed with a heated chemotherapy solution for up to ninety minutes in the operating room. The abdominal cavity is bathed with a heated chemotherapy solution for up to ninety minutes in the operating room.


    The acronym HIPEC stands for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy.  This procedure is a novel method of delivering chemotherapy in the operating room during surgery for the treatment of advanced cancers that have spread to the lining of the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity.

    The term hyperthermic refers to the increased temperature we use to make the tumor more sensitive to chemotherapy.  The drugs are able to directly touch the lining of the abdominal wall, and avoid the need to administer it through the veins.

    The procedure is typically performed in patients with cancers involving the abdomen with the most common being Appendiceal cancer and Peritoneal Mesothelioma.  There are other indications for the procedure in select circumstances including metastatic colorectal cancer and even gastric cancer; however clinical trials are currently being conducted to evaluate the use in these situations.

    The actual procedure is more than just “bathing” your belly in chemotherapy.  A portion of the procedure called “cytoreduction,” is when the surgeon attempts to remove all visible disease within the abdomen.  Sometimes the disease is extensive, and the procedure could include resection of various organs, and other times not.  We use minimally invasive laparoscopy at the onset of the procedure to see if HIPEC and debulking is a reasonable strategy.  The procedure typically lasts 5-9 hours, and the hospital course can range from 7-14 days, again depending on the severity of disease and extent of surgery.  There is a regimented post-operative protocol that we follow, and implement its use from the day of surgery, until the date of discharge.

    If you have been diagnosed with one of these cancers, consider being evaluated by a team that specializes in peritoneal malignancies and has experience in HIPEC, such as Fox Chase Cancer Center.  After an initial consultation with our team, you will have a structured treatment plan that best suits you.  If you are eligible for the cytoreduction and HIPEC, our experienced team will lead you through every step of the process.  The treatment of these diseases is complex, and through a multi-disciplinary effort, we are able to deliver optimal care catered to the individual.