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What Is Interventional Radiology?

Interventional radiology is a rapidly growing specialty performing minimally invasive procedures that replace large surgeries with a tiny pinhole. These procedures are generally easier for the patient because they involve no large incisions, less risk, less pain and shorter recovery times.

Some of our procedures improve arm or leg swelling by removing blood clots; help women with heavy periods by shrinking fibroids; help men control their bladders by shrinking the prostate; avoid chemotherapy by destroying tumors; avoid gallbladder surgery by removing stones; encourage seniors to stay active by fixing compression fractures; and heal wounds by opening blocked arteries.

Who are interventional radiologists?

Interventional radiologists (IRs) completed six years of specialty training after medical school and are physicians who perform minimally invasive treatments. IRs use their expertise in state-of-the-art medical imaging to guide instruments through the skin that are smaller than one of these letters. IRs take pride in performing procedures less invasive and much less costly than traditional surgery.

You can meet our interventional radiologists in clinic, either in person or by video conference. Our goal is to customize your treatment to meet your needs.

How did interventional radiology develop?

Interventional radiology was developed in the 1960s after medical imaging allowed doctors to not only see inside the body to diagnose but also to perform procedures. Companies worked with early pioneers to invent small balloons that could help unclog arteries and stents to keep those arteries open and save patients from foot or leg amputations. 

Eventually, these advances gave rise to state-of-the-art treatments for many diseases and have helped countless patients. Interventional radiology is the newest medical specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association.

The Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR), the professional association of interventional radiologists based in Virginia, has seen its membership increase steadily. Today, there are more than 5,000 interventional radiologists in the United States and thousands more across the world.

What are the advantages of interventional radiology?

We understand life happens outside of the hospital. Our goal is to get patients back to family, work, or school as safely and as soon as possible.

  • Most procedures are performed on an outpatient basis or require only a short hospital stay.
  • Most procedures are performed using twilight sedation. General anesthesia is usually not required.
  • Risk, pain and recovery time are often significantly reduced.
  • The procedures are often less expensive than surgery.

Vascular & interventional radiologists are experts of the blood vessels. Our specialists can confidently diagnose and treat vascular conditions using minimally invasive techniques. Specifically, we welcome consultations for peripheral arterial disease, deep vein disease, aneurysms, and birthmarks. 

Ablation is a minimally invasive treatment that uses thermal energy to destroy harmful tissue. Through a tiny pinhole in the skin, we use ultrasound or a CT to guide a thin needle safely into the tissue we need to treat. The device works by heating up (radiofrequency or microwave ablation) or freezing tissue (cryoablation). For nerves or abnormal blood vessels, we may inject medications like alcohol.

For patients with cancer, we can decrease the size and number of tumors to help control the disease. In some cases, we can even cure the patient. The technology can be used almost anywhere in the body, but it is most commonly used in the liver, kidney, lung, and bone. We can treat tumors, whether they started in the organ or spread there (metastasized). We tailor your treatment to each patient after meeting you in our clinic.

Ablation is best for smaller tumors, usually up to 2-3 cm in size although there are exceptions. Our patients include those who prefer a pinhole to a large incision, those turned down by surgeons, and those who need a combination of approaches by a team of doctors to achieve the best result while staying active. Patients usually go home the same day or the next day.