Interventional Radiology: Finding more with X-Rays

As technology improves, surgical intervention has become ever more precise and effective. On the cutting edge of that trend is Interventional Radiology (IR), a technique whereby minimally invasive surgery is guided by live imagery, including x-ray fluoroscopy and MRI. As a result, surgeons can now treat diseases like cancer through pinhole-sized incisions, reducing the margin of error, the risk to the patient, and recovery time.

Here are five things to know about IR:

1. It functions with a variety of internal imaging systems.

Technological advances have provided physicians with tools that allow them to see into a patient during surgery, allowing them to guide tiny surgical instruments to their exact areas of need with heightened precision. The imaging type depends on the patient’s condition; a cancerous tumor might be targeted with MRI, whereas a bone concern would be imaged with x-ray fluoroscopy. The range of imaging tools has grown rapidly over the recent decades and includes CT scanning and ultrasounds.

2. It confers a significant benefit to the patient.

Surgeries performed using IR have significant advantages over those without. Conventional surgery requires the doctor to reference still images taken before the procedure, using cameras or visual cues to guide intervention. In IR, however, the surgeon can “see” into the patient in real-time, eliminating ambiguity and surprises. This lets the clinician operate precise tools through tiny incisions, which is better for the patient. Such procedures lower the risk of unnecessary blood loss and complications, which shortens hospital stays and recovery times, thereby lowering the patient’s costs.

3. It has particularly effective applications for cancer treatment.

Cancer remains a hard-to-treat illness in many cases. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that many cancer treatments are the surgical equivalent of blunt instruments. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy target the entire area affected by cancer, meaning that healthy tissue is frequently affected along with cancerous cells. IR lets oncologists deliver such interventions directly to those cancerous cells, dramatically reducing patients’ experience of side effects. Doctors can even cut off a tumor’s blood supply during surgery, starving it as they treat it.

4. It can be used on patients of all ages.

Because IR can be used to treat so many conditions, IR patients cover the entire spectrum of age and medical needs. For example, IR can effectively treat vascular conditions more common in the elderly, like pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis, by targeting specific problem spots with medication or equipment like stents. It can also treat major bleeding from things like sports, violence, or childbirth, which are more common in younger people.

5. It is an effective diagnostic tool.

While IR has numerous treatment applications, it can be used just as effectively to help doctors diagnose a condition. For example, taking a biopsy of a diseased or suspicious area can be a complicated procedure. IR makes it much simpler by enabling doctors to use smaller, more precise tools, allowing them to take a sample from their exact preferred location.

Physician Partners of America’s doctors are fully trained and equipped to perform IR on various conditions. To find out if you are a candidate for IR, please visit our website or call your local PPOA clinic.