Interventional radiology is a rapidly growing area of medicine. Interventional radiologists are physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments performed using imaging guidance.
Interventional radiology procedures are an advance in medicine that replace open surgical procedures. They are generally easier for the patient because they involve no large incisions, less risk, less pain and shorter recovery times.
What is interventional radiology?
Interventional radiologists (IRs) use their expertise in reading X-rays, ultrasound and other medical images to guide small instruments such as catheters (tubes that measure just a few millimeters in diameter) through the blood vessels or other pathways to treat disease percutaneously (through the skin). These procedures are typically much less invasive and much less costly than traditional surgery.
Who are interventional radiologists?
Interventional radiologists are medical doctors who have specialized in doing medical procedures that involve radiology. Radiologists use imaging equipment such as X-rays, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) to diagnose disease. IRs are board certified radiologists that are fellowship trained in percutaneous interventions using guided imaging. Their specialized training is certified by the America Board of Medical Specialties.
How did interventional radiology develop?
The improved ability to see inside the body with radiologic imaging and the development of tools such as balloon catheters, gave rise to interventional radiology (IR) in the mid-1970s. Interventional radiologists pioneered coronary angiography and other minimally invasive procedures that are commonplace in medicine today. In 1992, the American Medical Association officially recognized IR as a medical specialty, and today there are more than 5,000 interventional radiologists in the United States. The Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR), the professional association of interventional radiologists based in Fairfax, Va., has seen its membership steadily increase to more than 3,600 worldwide in 2001.
What are the advantages of interventional radiology?
- Most procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis or require only a short hospital stay.
- General anesthesia usually is not required.
- Risk, pain and recovery time are often significantly reduced.
- The procedures are sometimes less expensive than surgery or other alternatives.
Where is interventional radiology headed in the future?
As technology advances and high-quality imaging equipment becomes more widely available, interventional radiology is able to offer patients and referral physicians a host of new treatment options.
For more information see Society of Interventional Radiology.
©2004, Society of Interventional Radiology. Used with permission.
Last updated: February 2004