Interventional Radiology

What is Interventional Radiology and what does it diagnose?

Interventional radiology is the use of medical imaging techniques used to diagnose and treat disease.


Interventional radiology tests and treatments are done by interventional radiologists. These radiologists are specially trained in anatomy and image guidance.


They treat a wide range of conditions in the body by inserting various small tools, such as catheters or wires from outside the body.

Interventional radiologists use imaging modalities such as xray or fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CAT scan to produce real-time images. This guides them as they perform the exam.


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. 

  • 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.

  • Catheter 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.


What Are the Benefits of Interventional Radiology?


Treatments done by interventional radiologists are minimally invasive. Because they use small incisions (cuts), IR procedures often are less painful than regular surgery.


Patients usually have shorter recovery times and very small or no scars. Many times, IR treatment doesn't require a hospital stay.


Because IR treatments are image-guided, they can be very precise. This helps doctors prevent as much damage as possible to surrounding tissue, organs, and skin.


Interventional radiology can be used instead of surgery for many conditions. In some cases, it can eliminate the need for hospitalization.