Using imaging to guide a host of nonsurgical treatments
Radiology has been one of the most rapidly expanding and advancing fields in medicine, and within this discipline, interventional radiology (IR) is the fastest growing area. That's because IR is providing so many patients with an alternative to open surgical procedures for so many types of conditions, and is improving diagnostic information. IR has been called the surgery of the 21st Century.
Radiology doctors also now provide many essential treatment procedures –– in all cases using a minimal amount of invasiveness.
Interventional radiologists are special radiologists who have additional training in performing invasive procedures and interpreting results from these procedures. These medical doctors use their knowledge in imaging to guide small instruments such as needles or catheters (tiny plastic tubes, often with a diameter about that of a strand of spaghetti) through blood vessels or other routes to treat disease. Their specialized training is board certified.
Using Catheters to Reach Inside, Radiology to See Inside
This area of radiology has continued to develop treatments for a growing number of target sites, organs, and conditions, using minimally invasive, nonsurgical means. Specialists trained in this discipline perform these interventions and access internal areas of the body by inserting their instruments into arteries or other areas of the body, and advancing them to locations that require imaging, biopsy, expansion, ablation, blockage, or other steps or interventions. Catheter-based procedures require only a small cut in the skin, usually to access a blood vessel that provides the path to other areas of the body. Needle-based procedures require only a skin puncture. (Patients receive local anesthesia and, in some cases, sedation for IR procedures.)
Our staff offers university-hospital-level capabilities and quality in interventional radiology. Our experienced and well-trained interventional radiologists work with an expert support team of nurses, technologists, and other healthcare staff members –– and they have the advantage of the latest technology and equipment, including three-dimensional (3-D) fluoroscopic imaging units, for the most precise imaging of vascular structures, ducts, and other internal areas of the body. Our advanced radiology suites at Aria are equipped with the most up-do-date technology, including a 64-slice CT scanner, CT fluoroscopy capability, and the availability of MR imaging and PET scanning.
Interventional radiology can address diseases or conditions in almost any area of medicine, from cancer to trauma, from blockages to cosmetic concerns, from vascular conditions to infections. For example, specialists in this area now use IR techniques to treat clots inside arteries; to remove varicose veins; to block off blood vessels that nourish tumors; to destroy malignant tumors; to drain blocked organ systems, such as the liver, gallbladder, or kidney; and to perform biopsies that would otherwise require surgical exploration. These and a long and growing list of other procedures spare many patients the hospital stays, general anesthesia, pain, recovery, risks, and costs associated with traditional open surgery used to correct the same problems. Among many current IR treatments, several that are expanding most quickly in use at Aria and in the interventional field are:
> uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). This procedure provides a minimally invasive, nonsurgical method for destroying or shrinking fibroid masses in the uterus by reducing blood supply to these benign tumors.
> radiofrequency (RF) tumor ablation (including for cancer of the lung or liver, and for benign masses). These procedures provide a minimally invasive, nonsurgical approach to destroying tumors, with radiofrequency-generated heat, for patients who are not candidates for other forms of tumor treatment.
> kyphoplasty (vertebroplasty). This procedure provides a minimally invasive, nonsurgical method for repairing fractured vertebrae.
- abscess or fluid drainage (including from infected sites)
- angiography (imaging the blood vessels - arteries and veins)
- angioplasty (opening narrowed vessels or ducts, including for peripheral vascular disease)
- bile duct procedures (including biliary stone removal)
- biopsy and other tissue sampling (including breast and liver biopsy)
- blood clot treatments (including for deep vein thrombosis and hemodialysis access)
- chemoembolization (blocking off and treating a tumor)
- embolization (stopping blood supply to an area, including to treat aneurysms, bleeding, male fertility (varicocele), pelvic pain, and other conditions)
- nonvascular catheter or needle placement for infusion (including feeding tubes and intraperitoneal or intrathecal chemotherapy)
- pain control (including for disk pain)
- stenting and tube placement to keep vessels, ducts, and tubes open (including vein and artery treatment, urinary-tract treatment, female fertility)
- traumatic injury care (including for diagnosis and bleeding control)
- varicose vein ablation (removing varicose veins)
- vascular access procedures (intravenous access to central vessels).
Check out our Medical Mythbusters videos with Aaron Shiloh, MD, FSIR, and Robert Danoff, DO, as they discuss interventional radiology treatments for fibroids and varicose veins.