What is Interventional Radiology?
The landscape of medicine is constantly changing, and for the past 30 years, interventional radiologists have been responsible for much of the medical innovation and development of the minimally invasive procedures that are commonplace today. Interventional radiologists pioneered modern medicine with the invention of angioplasty and the catheter-delivered stent, which were first used to treat peripheral arterial disease. By using a catheter to open the blocked artery, the procedure allowed an 82-year-old woman, who refused amputation surgery, to keep her gangrene-ravaged left foot. To her surgeon's disbelief, her pain ceased, she started walking, and three "irreversibly" gangrenous toes spontaneously sloughed. She left the hospital on her feet - both of them. Charles Dotter, MD, the interventional radiologist that pioneered this technique, is known as the "Father of Interventional Radiology," and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1978.
Angioplasty and stenting revolutionized medicine and led the way for the more widely known applications of coronary artery angioplasty and stenting that revolutionized the practice of cardiology. Today many conditions that once required surgery can be treated nonsurgically by interventional radiologists. Through a small knick in the skin, they use tiny catheters and miniature instruments so small they can be run through a person's network of arteries to treat at the site of illness internally, saving the patient from open invasive surgery. While no treatment is risk free, the risks of interventional procedures are far lower than the risks of open surgery, and are a major advance in medicine for patients.
Interventional Radiologists are minimally invasive specialists. Some of the more recent advances in interventional radiology include:
Nonsurgical ablation of tumors to kill cancer without harming the surrounding tissue
Embolization therapy to block the blood supply to a tumor
Catheter-directed thrombolysis to clear blood clots, preventing disability from deep vein thrombosis and stroke
Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting to prevent stroke
Who are Interventional Radiologists?
Interventional Radiologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments. They offer in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments available coupled with diagnostic and clinical experience across all specialties. As the inventors of angioplasty and stents; interventional radiologists pioneered minimally invasive modern medicine to treat narrowing (known as stenosis) or occlusion in blood vessels due to plaque crated by atherosclerotic disease.
Today many conditions that once required traditional open surgical operations can be treated by interventional radiologists using minimally invasive techniques guided by X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI imaging. Interventional radiology treatments offer less risk, less pain and less recovery time compared to open surgery.
Interventional Radiology Training
Interventional Radiology is a recognized medical subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians that have completed Diagnostic Radiology training and then additional advanced training in Vascular and Interventional Radiology. Their board certification is administered by the American Board of Radiology.
Innovation and Patient Safety
Interventional radiologists' unique blend of skills fosters innovation and enables them to quickly adapt their imaging expertise to tailor treatments for each individual patient. When it comes to the best practices for safely performing minimally invasive treatments, patient safety is incorporated into the development of these advances because their training program include radiation safety, radiation physics, the biological effects of radiation, and injury prevention.
Patient Choices and Informed Consent
For many years, surgery was the only treatment available for many conditions. Today, interventional radiology treatments are first-line care for a wide variety of conditions. It is important to know all of your treatment options before consenting to any procedure or surgery.