Interventional radiology is a type of advanced medical imaging that uses minimally invasive, image-guided techniques to diagnose and treat diseases. Interventional radiology allows doctors to diagnose and treat patients using less invasive techniquesso as to minimize patient risk, speed recovery, and improve overall patient outcome.
Some of the most common uses of medical imaging in interventional radiology are in angioplasty and catheter-delivered stents. Such procedures are performed by interventional radiology specialists like SteleRAD’s Joel Erickson, MD and Jon K. Guben, MD. Angioplasty involves the threading of a thin tube through a blood vessel to an affected artery. At the site of a partial blockage, a tiny balloon on the end of the tube is inflated to open up the artery, restoring blood flow. Angioplasty is used to treat heart disease and to minimize heart muscle damage after heart attacks.
Interventional radiology has expanded into many other types of medical care, however. Using x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and other medical imaging techniques, interventional radiology is used to direct instruments throughout the body, often including needles or catheters. This allows the avoidance of the large incisions required by many traditional surgical techniques.
Advantages of Interventional Radiology
Because of advances in interventional radiology, conditions that once had to be treated with surgery can now be treated with much less invasive methods. Physical trauma to the patient is reduced, and this can reduce rates of infection, as well as allowing for quicker recovery time and shorter hospital stays.
Interventional radiology can reduce costs too. A report commissioned by the Canadian Interventional Radiology Association (CIRA) found that, for example, interventional radiology treatment of peripheral arterial disease not only had lower rates of complication than open surgical treatments, it also cost nearly 60% less. Following are several applications of interventional radiology, along with information on how this type of advanced medical imaging is improving patient outcomes.
Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus that develop from uterine smooth muscle tissue. They are very common, but often cause no symptoms. Fibroids may be so small as to be undetectable by the unaided eye, or they may be large enough to distort the uterus. How uterine fibroids grow and shrink may vary, and some go away on their own. However, sometimes uterine fibroids need to be treated because they can cause heavy bleeding, pressure on the bladder, and back or leg pain.
Interventional radiology can be used as a quicker, safer alternative to surgery for uterine fibroids, and is performed by specialists like SteleRAD’s Linda Hughes, MD. With this type of treatment, a tiny incision is made in the groin, and a catheter is inserted into the femoral artery of the leg. The radiologist then uses real-time imaging to guide the catheter to uterine arteries that supply blood to fibroids. Tiny polyvinyl particles are released through the catheter, and these particles block blood flow to the fibroids, which then shrink and disappear. The procedure doesn’t require general anesthesia and usually only requires an overnight hospital stay.
Targeting Brain Treatments More Accurately with Interventional Radiology
Accuracy in surgery and direct treatment into the brain is of utmost importance, because in the brain, displacement of tissue by even one or two millimeters can influence the effectiveness of treatment. Medical imaging has always been critical in treating the brain, and interventional radiology is allowing better accuracy of medical imaging of the brain than ever. Specialists like SteleRAD’s Nicholas Arfaras, MD are able to use neuroradiology to target drug delivery and surgical procedures with outstanding accuracy.
Additionally, biomedical engineering specialists are developing new ways to use medical imaging in treatment of the brain that allows neurosurgeons and other specialists to minimize the effects of slight shifts in brain tissue during procedures. With new applications for medical imaging techniques like MRI, specialists will be able to better track, for example, where drugs for brain cancer are delivered. Techniques under development by Walter Block, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, allow MRI guidance with accuracy to less than one millimeter, compared to best-case accuracy of 1.5 to 2 millimeters for conventional stereotactic guidance systems.
Removal of Osteoid Osteoma With No Incision
Imagine being able to remove a tumor from a bone with no incision at all. That’s what doctors in Toronto were able to do for a 16-year-old boy with a benign tumor on his femur. Using MRI-guided ultrasound, doctors were able to destroy the tumor, called an osteoid osteoma, with heat-destroying ultrasound in a completely noninvasive procedure. Doctors now hope to be able to expand the technology to treat different types of benign and malignant tumors. The boy who received the treatment, after having suffered severe leg pain for nearly a year, said that when he woke up from the procedure, the pain had been eliminated: “It felt like somebody flipped a switch, and it was gone.”
Treating Peripheral Vascular Disease with Interventional Radiology
Peripheral vascular disease is narrowing of the peripheral arteries, often in the legs, and is similar to coronary artery disease. It is caused by narrowing and blocking of arteries, and can sometimes be managed through lifestyle changes and medication. However, when these treatments are insufficient, doctors had to turn to surgery in the past. However, interventional radiology, as practiced by vascular interventional radiology specialists like SteleRAD’s Michael B. Gordon MD, PhD and David H. Ring, Jr., MD, is allowing for less invasive treatment of peripheral vascular disease. According to Radiology Today, noninvasive medical imaging is helping interventional radiologists to not only optimize pre-treatment planning for patients, but also actually treat peripheral vascular disease with minimally invasive endovascular therapies that reduce recovery times and may reduce overall healthcare costs.
Interventional radiology is a highly specialized field that is expanding the use of minimally invasive techniques in the treatment of a wide variety of conditions. The radiologists at SteleRAD have a long history of outstanding interventional radiology experience, and are ready to assist with interventional radiology procedures. SteleRAD’s specialists are fully committed to adapting the latest techniques for better diagnosis and treatment of their patients. To learn more about SteleRAD’s interventional radiology services, call SteleRAD at 954-358-5250 or contact us online.