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What does IRE (Nanoknife) for pancreatic cancer treatment involve?

This is general information about what IRE involves. Treatment may vary in different hospitals, and may depend on your own situation. Speak to your doctor about what treatment involves and the risk of any side effects before you agree to have IRE.

Before treatment

You will normally have three to six months of chemotherapy, either on its own or with radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy), before having IRE. If you have already had chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy you may not need further treatment before having IRE.

You will have a CT scan to check the size and position of your cancer before having the IRE.

What happens during treatment?

You will be given a general anaesthetic (so that you are asleep and can’t feel anything), and a drug to relax your muscles.

Small cuts are made in the skin of your tummy. Two to six needles (depending on the size and position of the tumour) are inserted through these cuts and placed around the tumour. The doctors will use CT scans to make sure the needles are in the right place.

Once the needles are in place, short pulses of electricity are passed between them. The needles may then be moved and the process repeated until the whole tumour and some of the surrounding area has been treated.

The electrical pulses can affect the heartbeat. To prevent this happening, your heart will be monitored during the treatment. Doctors use ECG (electrocardiography) monitoring so that the electrical pulses are delivered between heartbeats, when the heart is least affected by the electrical currents.

The procedure may last one to two hours, depending on how difficult it is to insert the needles into the right place.

Will I have to stay in hospital?

You may have to stay in hospital overnight. This is to make sure that you have recovered from the general anaesthetic and aren’t in any pain or discomfort.

If you had IRE as part of an operation to remove the cancer, you may need to stay in hospital for about a week, depending on your recovery and any complications. 

Check-ups after treatment

You will usually have a CT or PET scan around one to three months after the treatment, to check how well it has worked. You may also have a blood test to check for tumour markers. These are substances in the blood produced by the cancer, and can also be used to help check how well the treatment has worked.

If there are signs that the cancer may have started growing again, it may be possible to have more IRE. Speak to your doctor about this.

If you are still having chemotherapy, speak to your oncology team about what check-ups you will have.

If you have any questions about what IRE involves, speak to your doctor or nurse. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our Support Line.

What is IRE?

Who can have IRE?

What are the side effects of IRE?

Questions to ask your doctor about IRE

Updated: May 2018

Review Date: May 2020

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