Interventional radiology (IR) is an essential component of modern medical management. It is a rapidly growing area of medicine providing minimally invasive, image guided targeted treatments often replacing traditional surgery.
It is performed by interventional radiologists who are specialists in interpreting a variety of technologically advanced imaging methods such as ultrasound, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and angiography and using these to perform and guide a wide range of therapeutic procedures in many organ systems.
The advantage of IR treatments is that because they are minimally invasive and performed through a pinhole, they reduce physical trauma and so can be done under local anaesthetic, with fewer serious complications, more rapid mobilisation and quicker recovery than standard surgical treatments.
Examples of IR procedures
- Arterial disease - opening up blocked arteries in the kidneys, gut, neck, upper and lower limbs by using angioplasty balloon catheters or stents
- Conversely, blocking arteries that are bleeding or feeding tumours by embolization. One of these treatments is revolutionising the management of fibroids in the uterus
- Cancer - targeted therapies for cancer without damaging the surrounding tissue
In some instances, interventional radiology procedures replace traditional surgery and can also open up possibilities to patients who may not have been suitable or unfit for traditional surgery. Technological advances are continuously being developed. A recent example is ablation of the sympathetic nerves of the kidney which can help people with drug resistant hypertension.