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Interventional Radiology

What is interventional radiology?

Interventional radiologists diagnose and treat disease. They treat a wide range of conditions in the body by inserting various small tools, such as catheters or wires from outside the body. X-ray and imaging techniques such as ultrasound help guide the radiologist. Interventional radiology can be used instead of surgery for many conditions. In some cases, it can eliminate the need for hospitalization.

Who is the interventional radiologist?

The interventional radiologist is a medical doctor who has completed an accredited residency program. He or she can then take the board exam given by the American Board of Radiology. Next, the interventional radiologist completes a fellowship-training program. These experts work closely with other doctors and play an important role on the treatment team.

What procedures do interventional radiologists perform?

Interventional radiologists do a variety of procedures, including:

  • Angiography. This is an X-ray of the arteries and veins to find blockage or narrowing of the vessels as well as other problems.

  • Angioplasty. The doctor inserts a small balloon-tipped catheter into a blood vessel. Then he or she inflates the balloon to open up an area of blockage inside the vessel.

  • Embolization. The doctor inserts a substance through a catheter into a blood vessel to stop blood flow thru that vessel. This can be done to control excessive bleeding.

  • Gastrostomy tubes. The doctor inserts a feeding tube into the stomach if you can’t take food by mouth.

  • Intravascular ultrasound. The use of ultrasound inside a blood vessel to better see the inside of the vessel to find problems.

  • Stent placement. The doctor places a tiny, expandable mesh coil, called a stent, inside a blood vessel at the site of a blockage. He or she expands the stent to open up the blockage.

  • Foreign body removal. The doctor inserts a catheter into a blood vessel to remove a foreign body in the vessel.

  • Needle biopsy. The doctor inserts a small needle into the abnormal area in almost any part of the body, guided by imaging techniques, to take a tissue biopsy. This type of biopsy can provide a diagnosis without surgical intervention. An example of this procedure is called the needle breast biopsy.

  • IVC filters. The doctor inserts a small filter into the inferior vena cava (IVC), a  large vein in your abdomen. The filter catches blood clots that may go into your lungs

  • Injection of clot-dissolving agents. The doctor injects clot-dissolving drugs, such as tissue plasminogen activator, into the body to dissolve blood clots and increase blood flow to your arms or legs or organs in of your body.

  • Catheters insertions. The doctor inserts a catheter into large veins for giving chemotherapy drugs, nutritional support, and hemodialysis. He or she may also insert a catheter before a bone-marrow transplant.

  • Cancer treatment. The doctor gives the cancer medicine directly to the tumor site.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/14/2015
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