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What is interventional radiology?

Interventional radiology is the medical specialty devoted  to advancing patient care through the innovative integration  of clinical and imaging-based diagnosis and minimally  invasive therapy.

Who are interventional radiologists?

Interventional radiologists are doctors who specialize in  minimally invasive, targeted treatments performed using  imaging for guidance. They use their expertise in reading  X-ays, ultrasound, MRI and other diagnostic imaging, to  guide tiny instruments, such as catheters, through blood  vessels or through the skin to treat diseases without  surgery. Interventional radiologists are board-certified and  fellowship trained in minimally invasive interventions  using imaging guidance. Your interventional radiologist  will work closely with your primary care or other physician  to be sure you receive the best possible care.

How do interventional radiology  procedures work?

Interventional radiologists use imaging, like X-rays or  MRIs, to see inside a patient’s body, pinpoint where the  problem is and map out how to get there without surgery. Interventional radiologists then guide catheters through  the vascular system, other pathways in the body, or  through the skin, to treat disease or tumours directly at  the source, via a small nick in the skin and X-ray guidance.

Is interventional radiology new specialty?

No. Advances in diagnostic imaging gave rise to interventional radiology in the mid 1970s by combining specialized  training in nonsurgical techniques with imaging.  Interventional radiologists pioneered modern medicine with  the invention of angioplasty and the first catheter delivered  stent, which was initially used to treat blocked arteries in  the legs, saving patients from surgery or amputation.

What are the advantages of interventional  radiology procedures?

While no treatment is risk free, the risks of interventional  radiology procedures are far lower than the risks of open  surgery, and are a major advance in medicine for patients.  Most procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis  or require only a short hospital stay. General anesthesia is  usually not required. Risk, pain and recovery time are often  significantly reduced. Procedures can be less expensive  than surgery or other alternatives.

How safe is the radiation during the treatment?

The highest standards of patient safety have been incorporated into the development of these procedures, because  interventional radiology and diagnostic radiology training  programs include radiation safety, radiation physics, the  biological effects of radiation and injury prevention.

What do interventional radiologists treat?

By combining their expertise in diagnostic radiology with  their advanced training in nonsurgical techniques using  imaging guidance, interventional radiologists can treat a  variety of ailments throughout the body by delivering  treatment directly to the source of the problem. Cancer can  be treated with chemoembolization, a process that delivers  a high dose of chemotherapy directly to the tumour  while simultaneously blocking its blood supply, or with  radiofrequency ablation that heats and kills the tumour.  “Hardening of the arteries” in the legs, or peripheral  arterial disease, which blocks circulation and often causes  predictable pain when walking, can be treated with balloon  angioplasty to open the pathway for blood. A blood clot in  your leg, known as deep vein thrombosis, can be removed by  placing “clot busting drugs” on the clot to prevent permanent vein damage. Uterine fibroid embolization delivers tiny  beads to the artery feeding the tumour, which then block  the blood supply causing uterine fibroids to shrink and  symptoms to resolve. Osteoporosis patients with spinal  fractures can have medical-grade bone cement injected into  their vertebra to reduce pain and reinforce the spine  through vertebroplasty. Blocked arteries in the neck that  may lead to a stroke can be opened and reinforced using  carotid stenting. Nonsurgical infertility treatments are  available for both men and women. Varicoceles, varicose  veins in the scrotum that can cause infertility, are “closed”  using embolization. Women can get blocked fallopian tubes  opened with a catheter using selective salpingography.​