Interventional radiologists diagnose and treat disease. They treat a wide range of conditions in the body by inserting various small tools, such as catheters or wires from outside the body. X-ray and imaging techniques such as CT and ultrasound help guide the radiologist. Interventional radiology can be used instead of surgery for many conditions. In some cases, it can eliminate the need for hospitalization.
The interventional radiologist is a medical doctor who has completed an accredited residency program. He or she can then take the board exam given by the American Board of Radiology. Next, the interventional radiologist completes a fellowship-training program. These experts work closely with other doctors and play an important role on the treatment team.
Interventional radiologists do a variety of procedures, including:
Angiography. This is an X-ray of the arteries and veins to find blockage or narrowing of the vessels, as well as other problems.
Angioplasty. The doctor puts a small balloon-tipped catheter into a blood vessel. Then he or she inflates the balloon to open up an area of blockage inside the vessel.
Embolization. The doctor puts a substance through a catheter into a blood vessel to stop blood flow through that vessel. This can be done to control bleeding.
Gastrostomy tubes. The doctor puts a feeding tube into the stomach if you can’t take food by mouth.
Intravascular ultrasound. The doctor uses ultrasound to see inside a blood vessel to find problems.
Stent placement. The doctor places a tiny mesh coil (stent) inside a blood vessel at the site of a blockage. He or she expands the stent to open up the blockage.
Foreign body removal. The doctor puts a catheter into a blood vessel to remove a foreign body in the vessel.
Needle biopsy. The doctor puts a small needle into almost any part of the body, guided by imaging techniques, to take a tissue biopsy. This type of biopsy can give a diagnosis without surgery. An example of this procedure is called the needle breast biopsy.
IVC filters. The doctor puts a small filter into the inferior vena cava (IVC). This is a large vein in your abdomen. The filter catches blood clots that may go into your lungs
Injection of clot-dissolving medicines. The doctor injects clot-dissolving medicines such as tissue plasminogen activator. This medicine dissolves blood clots and increases blood flow to your arms, legs, or organs in your body.
Catheters insertions. The doctor puts a catheter into a large vein to give chemotherapy medicines, nutrition, or hemodialysis. He or she may also put in a catheter before a bone-marrow transplant.
Cancer treatment. The doctor gives the cancer medicine directly to the tumor site.