Interventional radiology is a growing branch of medicine that in many cases can eliminate the need for conventional surgery for a wide range of conditions.
Interventional radiologists are physicians who specialize in minimally invasive treatments using guidance from medical imaging technology. Imaging techniques such as x-rays and ultrasound are used to produce real-time images that help the physician guide small instruments such as catheters (very thin, flexible tubes) through the blood vessels or through other pathways in order to treat disease.
Because interventional radiology procedures are performed through tiny incisions in the skin, they can replace open surgical procedures and are generally easier for the patient because they involve less risk, less pain, and shorter recovery times.
Among the procedures performed by ECHN's interventional radiologists are:
- Vertebroplasty, which can ease the excruciating pain of compression fractures of the spine. This procedure provides lasting relief to about 90 percent of patients who have the treatment. It involves using a type of x-ray called fluoroscopy to guide the radiologist as bone cement (similar to that used in hip replacements) is injected into the fractured vertebra.
- Uterine artery embolization, used to treat fibroids. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths of tissue that are usually found in the wall of the uterus that can cause pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and other problems. The embolization procedure shrinks fibroids by cutting off their blood supply.
- Fallopian tube recanalization, which helps open the fallopian tubes of women with infertility and other symptoms caused by obstructions within the tubes.
- Balloon angioplasty, in which the radiologist opens blocked or narrowed blood vessels by inserting a very small balloon into the vessel and inflating it.
- Biopsies of virtually any organ in the body by using needles to take cell samples instead of requiring surgical incisions.
- Central venous access, the insertion of a tube beneath the skin and into the blood vessels so that patients can receive medication or nutrients directly into the blood stream or so blood can be drawn.
- Chemoembolization, in which cancer-fighting drugs are delivered directly to the site of a tumor.
- Stent placement, in which a small flexible tube made of plastic or wire mesh is inserted into the body to hold open clogged blood vessels or other pathways that have been narrowed or blocked.
- Thrombolysis, in which blood clots are dissolved by injecting clot-busting drugs at the site of the clot.