Interventional radiology is a way of using radiology to treat diseases rather than diagnose them. Without open surgery, small catheters or needles are guided to the affected area of your body with advanced imaging technology. This kind of procedure has replaced many traditional surgeries because it can be safer, more cost effective and can reduce recovery time.
Interventional radiology patients usually receive local anesthetic, while their EKG and blood pressure are monitored by a registered nurse. The process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours, depending on the procedure. Many procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis, but some require a short hospital stay.
Types of interventional radiology procedures
Interventional radiology procedures include:
Angiography, also known as an angiogram, is an X-ray of your arteries and veins. With an angiogram, a catheter is inserted into the arteries, which are then filled with a contrast medium, a special dye that makes the veins visible on the X-ray.
Angiograms are most often ordered to diagnose blockage or narrowing in the blood vessel(s). Angioplasty is an extension of the angiogram. With angioplasty, a catheter with an attached balloon device is inserted into the blocked coronary artery and expands the artery to allow for normal blood flow.
An aortic endograft, also known as a stent graft, is used to treat aortic aneurysms. Aortic aneurysms occur in the aortic blood vessel in weak areas of the vessel. This vessel is the main conduit of blood between the heart and the rest of the body. One of the more common aortic aneurysms is the abdominal aneurysm. With an aortic endograft as treatment, a stent is inserted into the abdominal aortic aneurysm. Once a stent is placed securely, it stays with the aneurysm to prevent future rupture.
Therapeutic embolization is a relatively new method of treating a variety of conditions, including abnormalities of blood vessels, tumors and bleeding. Materials are placed in the blood vessels to close arteries that feed tumors, or to deliver medicine to specific areas of tissue. This procedure is often performed as a life-saving maneuver on trauma patients whose small arteries are torn and causing blood loss into the body.
Embolization is done by placing a small tube or catheter in a groin artery under X-ray guidance. A series of smaller catheters are passed through this catheter into the area of the diseased vessel. Small particles or coils are then injected into the arteries, which results in their blockage.
Recently, uterine artery embolization is being used as a new approach to the treatment of fibroids and as an alternative to a hysterectomy for some women. Embolization is a less-invasive means of blocking arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. It is a procedure that uses angiographic techniques (similar to those used in heart catheterization) to place a catheter into the uterine arteries. The injected particles result in a blockage of the blood supply, which causes shrinkage of the fibroids. The procedure is usually done in the hospital with an overnight stay.
Radio frequency ablation treats tumors with heat generated by radio waves. A needle probe is placed in the tumor and conducts heat which kills the tumor. The tumor becomes gelatinous and is reabsorbed by the body over time. Patients require general anesthesia during this procedure.
Stroke, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen for a short period of time. This is usually caused when a blood vessel that carries the oxygen becomes blocked by a clot or burst. With no oxygen, the brain begins to starve and brain cells begin to die. Treatment for strokes is dependant on the type of stroke that occurs:
- Ischemic stroke is caused when an artery is blocked by a blood clot. Using a small catheter, the blockage is removed to restore normal blood flow.
- Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in a weakened area of the vessel that has either bulged or ballooned outward. A catheter is guided to the ruptured blood vessel where a series of coils are inserted which compose the stent. The support provided by the stent strengthens the blood vessel and prevents further damage.
Percutaneous vertebroplasty is an effective therapeutic, stabilizing and preventive treatment for back pain and progressive loss of height in compression fractures. Compression can be caused by injury, osteoporosis or cancer. The spine is made up of a “stack” of bony structures called vertebral bodies, interspaced with gelatinous discs. Vertebroplasty literally means fixing the vertebral body. A metal needle is passed into the vertebral body and a cement mixture containing a special bone glue, barium powder and antibiotic is injected under imaging guidance by the physician. The cement hardens rapidly and buttresses the weakened bone. The barium makes the cement visible on X-ray.
Vertebroplasty can’t return the vertebrae to normal size, but it can stabilize the spine from further debilitation while acting as an effective pain treatment. If you feel you may be a candidate for this procedure, please ask your physician.
To schedule an appointment for interventional radiology services at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, please call 858-626-6884.