The techniques used in interventional radiology offer new treatment options for many conditions, allowing patients to be treated with less risk and shorter hospital stays. IR procedures can be used in almost every organ system, and the list of conditions that can be diagnosed and treated using image-guided techniques is continuously growing. Body parts and systems that can be treated using IR include:
- Abdomen (intestine, kidneys, liver, stomach)
- Central nervous system (brain, spine)
- Chest (lungs, respiratory system)
- Heart and vascular (arteries, veins, haemodialysis access)
- Musculoskeletal (bones, joints, spine)
- Genitourinary (uterus, testes, kidneys)
- Other organs and soft tissues.
Interventional radiologists can provide patient evaluation and management, meaning that they evaluate the patient beforehand and give the patient information on the procedure. They can also be involved in post-procedural care, both in cases where they work alone and in cases which involve collaboration with other physicians.
What is an interventional radiologist?
Interventional radiologists are doctors trained in radiology and in minimally invasive procedures. They are experts in reading X-rays, ultrasounds, CT and other medical imaging techniques.
This expertise with imaging techniques enables them to guide small catheters (tubes) and guidewires through blood vessels or other organ pathways to treat many diseases. These small catheters are usually only a few millimetres in diameter.
Interventional radiologists have historically been the specialists’ specialist and patients did not have direct contact with them. Now, however, patients can be directly referred to an interventional radiologist; if you would like further information on direct referrals, please speak to your doctor.
For many years, surgery was the only available treatment option for a number of conditions. As a result, many primary care physicians still refer their patients to surgeons and rely on the surgeons to provide information on the range of possible treatment options.
However, surgeons tend not to be fully informed about the different minimally invasive treatments on offer, and so can only provide limited information on these procedures. It is therefore important for patients to be aware of the treatment options provided by IR.
These minimally invasive procedures carry lower risks than surgery, and have been fine-tuned to be as safe for patients as possible, with interventional radiologists maintaining high standards for safety and quality.
What are the benefits of interventional radiology?
Interventional radiology has a number of benefits for patients. The imaging techniques allow accurate diagnosis and treatment using cutting-edge equipment.
Minimally invasive procedures are performed through a small nick in the skin, minimising the patient’s discomfort and recovery time. As interventional procedures tend to require only local anaesthesia, hospital stays are very short, with patients frequently going home the day the procedure is performed. In addition, the techniques can be used in very sick patients who are unfit for surgery.
Patients who undergo IR procedures experience less pain during and after the procedure than patients undergoing surgical procedures. Post-procedural care is provided, along with follow-up imaging to confirm if the treatment has been successful.