Post-operative course

Since HIPEC is a complex and invasive procedure, postoperative complications occur frequently. Relatively frequent complications include an infection of the lungs or urinary bladder, wound problems and the inability to eat or drink during several days or even weeks. A less frequent but more serious complication is leakage of bowel contents into the abdomen resulting in abdominal infections. A second procedure may be needed in these patients to control the leakage.

Some patients experience side effects from the chemotherapy that is used during HIPEC but these are mostly mild and self-limiting. Significant hair loss as a result from the HIPEC-chemotherapy is very rare. Fortunately, the number of patients encountering complications has been steadily decreasing in the last few decades. Most patients are hospitalized for two to four weeks, although their stay may be longer if complications occur. During hospitalization, catheters that were installed during surgery, such as catheters in the urinary bladder, stomach or abdominal cavity, are removed.

Despite the complexity of the operation, a HIPEC procedure is now considered very safe. The chances of dying as a result of complications after treatment is less than 3% in experienced HIPEC centers. These odds compare favorably to other high-risk surgical procedures.

Several studies have investigated the quality of life (QOL) experienced by patients after a HIPEC procedure. These studies show that the QOL drops during the immediate postoperative period, which is to be expected given the impact of the procedure. However, three months after treatment, the QOL is restored to baseline levels in most patients and may even improve over the pre-operative QOL after six months. Based on these results, researchers have concluded that the QOL is generally preserved after HIPEC and may even be improved in select patients.

Learn more on results after HIPEC