What is Interventional Radiology?
Interventional Radiology (IR) is a branch of radiology where specialists use their skills in imaging along with their excellent technical ability to perform minimally invasive treatments. Their background in radiology and expertise in reading scans means they are experts in using x-ray, ultrasound, CT or MRI in real-time to safely guide treatment.
Interventional Radiology is a central specialty in the delivery of modern medical care. Many people may have been treated by Interventional Radiologists without having met one – IRs are commonly involved in the treatment of people with life-threatening bleeding either after trauma, surgery, or labour.
Interventional Radiology has pioneered the treatment of disease in this manner across the body, for example in coronary stent procedures, leg arterial disease, and stroke treatment. New cutting-edge treatments offered by IR in this manner include the treatment of obesity and osteoarthritis (currently under investigation in clinical trials).
What is an Interventional Radiologist?
An Interventional Radiologist is a highly trained medical specialist who has undergone general medical training, radiology training, and sub-specialty training in the field of minimally invasive therapy.
Interventional Radiologists offer treatments in a special surgical theatre with high-end imaging x-ray equipment. The vast majority of treatments are performed under sedation (twilight) and local anesthetic. Tiny specially designed tubes and wires are used inside blood vessels to deliver a range of treatments.
Access is often through a pinhole incision with no scar. This allows IRs to treat conditions without large scars and associated complications. Interventional Radiologists can also offer treatment to patients who are unable to have more invasive surgical treatments due to other medical conditions or blood-thinner medication.
Their wide knowledge of, and their frequent interaction with other medical specialties means they have a solid understanding of the range of treatment options, often being able to suggest cutting-edge treatment options when patients have been told none exists.
As a medical specialist, treatments cannot be performed before you have been seen in rooms for a consultation. For further information on how NBIR can help you please see the Conditions and Treatments sections of our website or Contact Us.
How is it Different From Diagnostic Radiology?
The major difference between diagnostic and interventional radiology is the outcome - diagnostic radiology primarily assists in preparing the diagnosis, while interventional radiology can assist in diagnosis and also delivers a variety of treatment options.
What Conditions do Interventional Radiologists Treat?
Despite being a specialist profession, interventional radiologists can treat a large range of conditions or perform a wide variety of procedures. According to Inside Radiology, an IR can perform:
- Angioplasty and Stent Insertion
- Ascitic Tap
- Biliary Drainage
- Bursal Injection
- Carotid Stenting
- Carpal Tunnel Ultrasound and Injection
- Image Guided Cervical Nerve Root Sleeve Corticosteroid Injection
- Image Guided Liver Biopsy
- Image Guided Lumbar Epidural Corticosteroid Injection
- Image guided lumbar nerve root sleeve injection
- Inferior Vena Cava Filters
- Joint Injection
- Pleural Aspiration
- Radiofrequency Ablation
- SAH Vasospasm Endovascular Treatment
- Selective Internal Radiation Therapy [SIRT]: SIR-Spheres®
- Spinal Cord Embolisation (AVM/DAVF)
- Thyroid fine needle aspiration (FNA)
- Transarterial Chemoembolisation (TACE)
- Uterine Fibroid Embolisation
- Varicose Vein Ablation
- Vascular Closure Devices
- Venous Access
What is an Example of Interventional Radiology?
At Northern Beaches Interventional Radiology, our most common procedures include:
- Portacath (placement and removal)
- Prostatic Artery Embolisation (for treating Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)
- Uterine Fibroid Embolisation (for non-invasive removal of Fibroids)
- Uterine Artery Embolisation (for treating Adenomyosis)
What are the Benefits?
Interventional Radiology delivers a host of benefits to patients, especially when compared with the more traditional treatment options available. Benefits include:
- Minimally Invasive
- Less painful
- Quicker Recovery
- No scar
- Less expensive than surgical options
- Unfit or anticoagulated patients can be safely treated
What are the Risks?
Just like any medical treatment, interventional radiology does come with some risks, such as the chance of bleeding or infection of the incision area. Along with this, each treatment comes with it’s own set of risks, dictated by the procedure itself and the part of the body being treated.
However, compared to other treatment options, the risks posed by interventional radiology are significantly smaller.
How Long do Interventional Radiology Procedures Take?
Every treatment has a different average length of time, and the exact length of your procedure will be dependent on a number of factors including your medical history and underlying conditions that may add to the complexity of the treatment.
However, most interventional radiology procedures last no longer than 2 hours, and most average 90 minutes.
Why is Interventional Radiology So Popular?
Interventional radiology is popular both as a specialisation for medical professionals and as a treatment option for patients.
As a medical field, there has been rapid growth in advanced techniques for treating a variety of conditions, which is appealing to graduates looking to decide on their future career. It is also a popular choice for professionals who have been specialising in a particular area of medicine for a long time and are looking to keep up-to-date with the latest advancements in patient care.
From the patient point of view, perhaps the most common reason why more people are choosing to have treatment by an interventional radiologist is because of the non-invasive nature of procedures.
The cutting-edge nature of interventional radiology is also appealing to some patients who would prefer to have the latest treatment, knowing that it offers significant benefits to more traditional approaches.
Another benefit of choosing an IR provider is that they can be involved in your treatment from start to finish - they can diagnose your condition, organise any scans that are needed, perform the procedure, and play a large role in post-procedural care and recovery.
How Long Does it Take to Recover From An Interventional Radiology Procedure?
Your recovery period will really depend on the procedure and the condition being treated, however as a general rule interventional radiology provides a significantly reduced recovery time compared with more traditional treatment options such as surgery.
In most cases you’ll be able to go home the same day of your procedure (at Northern Beaches Interventional Radiology we prefer to see patients in the morning so they can go home in the afternoon) and are usually back on your feet within 24-48 hours. The use of pain medication will vary from person to person, but most patients can manage their pain with Panadol or anti-inflammatories such as Nurofen.
After about a week you should be very close to fully recovered and back to life as normal.