What Is an Interventional Radiologist?

Interventional radiology is a branch of modern medicine, which uses modern technologies and miniaturized tools to save lives. It is used for treating cancer and other life threatening conditions without performing major surgery.

What Exactly Does an Interventional Radiologist Do?

An Interventional Radiologist has the delicate job of looking inside the patient’s body and performing high precision tasks, such as:

  • Taking a sample of tissue for biopsy
  • Breaking a blood clot
  • Destroying tumors without harming the healthy tissues around it.

In order to perform these tasks, the Interventional Radiologist uses imaging tests as guidance. These can be:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • Fluoroscopy (a procedure allowing a view of the organs in motion)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Interventional Radiologist

Interpreting Imaging to Decide on a Treatment Course

The images of the inside of the patient’s body allow the Interventional Radiologist to decide on the ideal approach for treating the issue. Instead of performing an open or laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery to access the problem area, the specialist will guide tiny instruments through the veins, using the images as a reference.

In this way, the entire intervention can be performed through an opening in the body fitted with a catheter (a small plastic tube) that is no wider than a straw.

Types of Medical Procedures Performed by an Interventional Radiologist

Interventional radiology is used for a wide range of life saving procedures, such as:

  • Angioplasty or stent insertion to strengthen weakened arteries
  • Biliary drainage to unclog the bile ducts
  • Varicose vein ablation
  • Image guided biopsy
  • Pleural aspiration (removing fluid accumulating around the lungs).

Interventional radiology is also used to kill cancer cells or tumors with radio waves, electric current or ice crystals and cutting off blood supply to the tumor at the same time.

Benefits of Interventional Radiology

Interventional Radiologists are in increasing demand, because this method of treatment has many benefits for the patient. These are:

  1. It Is Safer

Open surgery has its risks, from blood loss to negative reactions to general anesthesia. It is especially recommended for people with known allergies to anesthetics.

  1. It Allows Doctors to Deliver Treatment in a Precise Area of the Body

Miniature medical devices inserted through a catheter allow doctors to break blood clots, gallstones or kill cancer tumors without harming nearby tissues.

  1. No Need to Spend the Night in Hospital

The interventional radiology procedure is performed under light to medium sedation. Once it is over, the patient wakes up, spends a little time under observation and then can go back home.

  1. Reduced Risk of Negative Side Effects

Side effects, such as infection at the site of the surgery are not uncommon. In the case of vulnerable patients with cancer, they can be fatal. A procedure performed by an Interventional Radiologist does not carry the risk of side effects. It is minimally invasive and leaves behind just a small bandaged area.

  1. Safe Placement of Central IV Lines

In some cases, medicines need to be delivered deep inside the body for maximum effect. To do so, the Interventional Radiologist will guide the central IV line through the veins and stop at the exact place where the treatment has to be delivered.