What is Interventional Radiology?
Interventional Radiology, also known as image-guided therapy, is a sub-specialty of radiology that uses real-time medical imaging technology to guide minimally invasive surgery in order to diagnose and treat injuries to the blood vessels and various diseases. The advanced imagining procedures used by interventional radiologists include MRI, CT scans, fluoroscopy, X-rays and ultrasound scans which produce images of the internal structures of the body.
Indications for Interventional Radiology
Interventional radiology can be used in the treatment of a variety of conditions that include:
- Pulmonary embolism
- Uterine fibroids
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Varicose veins
- Pelvic congestion
- Brain aneurysms
- Arteriovenous malformation
Interventional radiology can be used to perform procedures such as:
- Dialysis access
- Joint aspiration
- Ablation therapy
- Removal of blockages in the blood vessels
Preparation for Interventional Radiology
In preparation for the interventional radiology procedure:
- You may be asked to not eat or drink any food items for some time prior to the procedure.
- Do not stop taking your medications unless instructed by your doctor.
- Inform your doctor if you are pregnant.
- Do not wear any jewelry or metallic items during the procedure.
- You will be instructed to change your clothing and wear a patient gown.
Procedure for Interventional Radiology
Interventional radiology is a less painful procedure with faster recovery as small incisions are made compared to open surgery. You will be instructed to lie on the examination table and the skin over the surgical site will be cleaned using an antiseptic solution. Your doctor will then inject anesthesia to make the area numb. Then a contrast dye will be injected intravenously that helps to visualize the internal structures by producing images that guide the catheter and thin wire to the target site. The most common procedures include:
- Angiography: This test involves injecting radio-opaque contrast material into the blood vessel and using x-ray imaging techniques to detect blockages in the blood vessels.
- Venography: Venography is a test to evaluate blood flow through your veins. It is an X-ray examination enhanced by a radio-opaque contrast material which is injected into the veins. Your doctor may recommend a venography to study varicose veins, blood clots, or to locate a vein which can be used in a bypass procedure or for dialysis.
- Fallopian tube catheterization: This procedure is performed to remove blockages in the fallopian tubes and treat infertility issues.
- Ablation: This procedure involves the treatment of an abnormal heart rhythm using catheter tubes that deliver extreme heat or cold to the heart tissue that is causing the arrhythmia.
- Stenting: In this procedure, a small tube is placed inside the artery to widen narrow arteries.
- Thrombolysis: Clot dissolving drugs are injected to treat blood clots in this procedure.
- Embolization: Blood clotting agents are delivered to the targeted site to prevent bleeding during this procedure.
- Drainage: A small catheter tube is inserted into the targeted site to drain fluid from an abscess.
- Gastrotomy Tube Feeding: This procedure is performed for patients who cannot take food by mouth. Food and nutrition is supplied directly into the stomach through a tube inserted into an opening in the abdomen.
- Biopsy: Specialized needles are inserted into the targeted site to remove a tissue sample for examination under a microscope.
- Central venous access: A catheter tube is inserted into a centralized blood vessel to directly supply nutrients or medications into the bloodstream.
- Varicocele embolization: In this procedure, a small catheter tube is inserted into a vein in the groin to divert blood flow away from the varicocele and prevent enlargement of the vein.
- Vertebroplasty: Image-guided injection of surgical cement into specific vertebrae to support weakened or degenerated bone tissue.
- Ureteric stenting: A thin plastic tube (stent) is inserted into the ureter to provide passage for the flow of urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder.
- Radiofrequency ablation: This procedure uses radiofrequency heat to destroy cancerous or abnormal cells.
- Sclerotherapy: This is done to treat varicose veins. A catheter tube containing a solution of 90% alcohol is injected into the enlarged vein. The vein disintegrates and the blood is directed to a new blood vessel.
The time taken will vary based on the type of procedure. After the procedure has been completed, the catheter tubes and the thin wire are removed and the incision may be sutured.
Post Procedural Care for Interventional Radiology
After the procedure, you may require some time for recovery if you are given sedation. You will be evaluated by your doctor in a recovery room before discharge. You will also be given post-care instruction based on the type of procedure. The contrast dye will be gradually excreted through the urine. You should watch for signs of infection at the incision site such as increasing pain, redness or swelling and inform your doctor immediately if present.
Risks and Complications of Interventional Radiology
Interventional radiology procedures have minimal risks that may include:
- Bruising on the skin
Benefits of Interventional Radiology
Benefits of interventional radiology include:
- Fast recovery
- Short hospital stay
- Less pain
- Less expensive
- Low risk
- Minimally invasive procedure