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Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)

Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, is an innovative way to treat cancers that have spread to the lining of the abdomen. HIPEC uses a combination of surgery and heated chemotherapy. This treatment may also be called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion or heated chemo.

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is one of only a few hospitals in the United States offering HIPEC. Our providers are internationally known for their surgical expertise and multidisciplinary approach in this advanced cancer treatment technique. 

“For some patients, HIPEC is a source for new hope. I’ve come to recognize that hope is as vital to living as oxygen.”

Laura Lambert, MD, HIPEC Surgeon 
Read “The Healer’s Art,” a story about Dr. Lambert and her patient, Nate Hardy

Laura Lambert, MD

Frequently Asked Questions About HIPEC

What is HIPEC?

HIPEC combines surgery and chemotherapy to treat patients in one procedure. The surgery involves an up-and-down incision in the abdomen. Surgeons first remove any tumors they can see in the patient’s abdomen, called cytoreduction. This may also involve removing organs that have cancer attached.

Even with surgery, invisible cancer cells or small tumors can remain. That’s where the heated chemotherapy comes in. After surgery while the patient is still in the operating room, chemo begins.

A special machine pumps and circulates a chemotherapy solution heated to 104 degrees F throughout the patient’s abdomen. The chemo touches and kills any cancer cells and tumors that are too small to see. After about 90 minutes, the chemotherapy solution is removed.

What conditions can HIPEC treat?

Patients who may benefit from HIPEC have late-stage cancers of organs in the abdomen such as the appendix and colon. Some patients with gynecologic cancers can also benefit from HIPEC.

HIPEC is often the main treatment for a rare condition called pseudomyxoma peritonei. HIPEC is also used to treat a disease called peritoneal mesothelioma.

What is the recovery process like?

Recovery time is different for each person.

After HIPEC, the patient usually stays in Huntsman Cancer Institute's intensive care unit for 1-2 days. Then the person moves to the regular recovery unit. Most patients are in the hospital for 7-10 days. A week after going home from the hospital, the care team sees the patients in the clinic for follow-up, and later as needed. Recovery at home usually takes another 10-12 weeks. This is about the same as for any major surgery in the abdomen.

What are the possible risks?

The possible risks and side effects of HIPEC are the same as for abdomen surgery:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Need for more surgery

Chemo can also lower the number of red and white cells in the patient’s blood. The combination of surgery and chemo can also cause extreme tiredness and weight loss. Both of these usually stop 6-8 weeks after HIPEC.

Most people do not lose their hair with HIPEC.

Will my insurance cover HIPEC?

Studies have shown that HIPEC is a safe procedure that works for some cancers and conditions. Depending on the cancer type, many insurance providers will cover HIPEC treatment. 

Billing and financial services staff can help verify insurance coverage.

Laura Lambert, MD, talks about HIPEC Cancer Treatment on Studio 5.

Erin Ward, MD
“I really count my successes as ones where I can help that patient live a long, healthy life.”

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