How HIPEC Works

HIPEC stands for heated intraperitoneal chemoperfusion, a procedure used to treat advanced abdominal cancers. You may have heard of HIPEC under another name: IPHC, chemo-bath, HIIC (heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy), intraperitoneal chemohyperthermia, or continuous hyperthermic peritoneal perfusion.

Understanding HIPEC

Chemo during surgery

HIPEC is performed at the end of surgery to remove abdominal tumors. Once all visible tumors have been removed (called “cytoreduction”), the surgeon continuously circulates a heated, sterile chemotherapy solution throughout the peritoneal cavity for up to 90 minutes. The HIPEC procedure is designed to attempt to kill any remaining cancer cells that cannot be seen. The solution is then removed and the incision closed.

Giving the chemotherapy in the abdomen at the time of surgery allows for greater concentrations of the drug where it is needed. Adding heat has a threefold advantage:

  • Heat above 41 degrees Celsius more effectively kills cancer cells while having fewer effects on normal cells.
  • Heat allows the chemotherapy to penetrate a few millimeters and kill cancer cells that cannot be seen.
  • The chemotherapy dose can be higher than that given intravenously because it is not absorbed by the body in the same way. In this way, the normal side effects of chemotherapy can be avoided.

There is substantial clinical evidence that HIPEC is an effective treatment for patients with pseudomyxoma peritonei, mucinous adenocarcinoma of the appendix, and peritoneal mesothelioma. Additionally, peritoneal metastases from colon cancer can be successfully treated in a significant number of patients. Read the HIPEC Consensus Statement on Colon Cancer (PDF).

New clinical trial: Minimally invasive HIPEC

UC San Diego clinical trial: Minimally invasive HIPEC

Patients with minimal or early-stage disease may be candidates for a clinical trial exploring the possibility of minimally invasive surgery, which uses smaller incisions and can result in a shorter recovery period. In this video, Dr. Kelly discusses how we are exploring minimally invasive techniques for several complex cancer surgeries, including cytoreduction with HIPEC.


More information about HIPEC


Moores Cancer Center 

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