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Interventional Radiology

By: Diya Varma, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Fatou Yeli Kourouma, Editor; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief

Radiology can be defined as a discipline of medicine that diagnoses and treats diseases through the use of imaging technology. Radiologists are doctors who specialise in using medical imaging to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases. The two main subspecialties of radiology include diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology.

Diagnostic radiology is used by medical practitioners to get a clear image of the organs inside of the human body. These images can help a doctor understand the causes and consequences of symptoms, investigate the body’s response to treatment, and check for the presence of serious diseases or illnesses. On the other hand, interventional radiology is essentially image-guided surgery. Interventional radiologists employ imaging tools like CT scans, ultrasound, mammograms and X-rays to facilitate their procedures. Interventional radiology uses a micro-incision to diagnose and treat patients, which removes the need for stitches and only needs an adhesive bandage to be dressed. Interventional radiologists perform the respective procedures in a chamber located in the Catheterization Laboratory (Cath Lab) or the Angiography Suite of a hospital or medical centre. The majority of interventional procedures forgo open or laparoscopic surgery in favour of less invasive alternatives. Interventional radiologists are frequently involved in the treatment of malignancies or tumours, artery and vein obstructions, uterine fibroids, back discomfort, liver disorders, and renal problems. The majority of interventional radiology patients are discharged the same day as their treatment and can resume normal day-to-day activities within a week or two. Essentially, interventional radiology practices are advantageous as they avoid open surgery and allow practitioners to identify and treat diseases in any part of the body. Interventional radiology procedures include the following:

  • Feeding tube placement (endoscopy)

  • Kyphoplasty (minimally invasive method of surgery used to treat compression fractures in the spine)

  • Vertebroplasty (injection of cement into a fractured vertebra to relieve pain)

  • Cancer treatments

  • Tumour ablation (minimally invasive surgery to treat solid cancers- either burning or freezing the cancers and avoiding the usual surgical methods)

  • Embolization as a method to control bleeding

  • Stent placement (angioplasty procedures to prevent the narrowing or closing of an artery)

Interventional radiology is not without its benefits and drawbacks. Due to the potentially high doses of radiation utilized in interventional radiological procedures, there is an elevated risk of cancer induction. This risk must be weighed against any viable alternatives, and individual risks and advantages must be considered. In comparison to open surgery, interventional radiology therapies have become the predominant way of treatment for a range of ailments, giving less risk, pain, and recovery time. Interventional radiology will benefit those who are more susceptible to anaesthesia because interventionalists only employ a moderate level of sedation. In many cases, interventional radiology procedures are less expensive than inpatient hospital stays. Furthermore, health insurance carriers may cover a larger part of these operations, which lowers out of pocket expenses.

Conclusively, a study conducted in 2008 comparing the risk-benefit of an IR procedure versus its alternatives in terms of quality-adjusted life-years found that the radiological technique outperforms hysterectomy and myomectomy in terms of quality-adjusted life-years and that the increased risk due to radiation from the procedure is small when compared to the overall benefit to the patient. Therefore, it can be said that interventional radiology has a number of advantages over the traditional surgical methods of treatment of illness. Any medical decisions, however, should be discussed with a licensed medical professional to avoid any harm or injury to the patient.


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