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March 22 2018

Interventional radiologists treat a wide variety of health issues

By Paul Fox, MD

Many people are not familiar with the term interventional radiology, even though this physician specialty represents a major advancement in health care.

Like diagnostic radiologists, interventional radiologists use radiologic imaging as a high-tech tool. The majority of their practice, however, is focused on treating patients. They use needle and catheterization techniques to treat cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, reproductive and other health issues. They receive education and training in interventional radiology in addition to general radiology.

Alternative to open surgery

Interventional radiology offers a minimally invasive treatment option because it does not involve opening an area of the body for surgery. Instead, the physician threads a catheter or needle through a small incision in a vein or duct directly to the treatment site.

The interventional radiologist uses real-time X-ray, CT scan, ultrasound or MRI images to guide the catheter and retrieve blood clots, perform needle biopsies, open blockages, place stents, drain fluid and remove harmful tissue. Interventional radiology is also used to deliver antibiotics or chemotherapy directly to one area of the body.

Health issues that are treated with interventional radiology include:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Cancer

  • Deep vein thrombosis

  • Kidney disease

  • Liver disease

  • Peripheral vascular/arterial disease

  • Pulmonary issues

  • Serious infections

  • Spinal compression fractures

  • Stroke

  • Uterine fibroids

  • Venous insufficiency including varicose and spider veins

Outpatient treatment

Most of the procedures and therapies that interventional radiologists perform are scheduled in advance, and patients return home the same day of treatment. The interventional radiologist meets with the patient before treatment to discuss its benefits and risks; explain the treatment and what the patient can expect before, during and after the procedure; and answer questions the patient may have. Before treatment, the patient is lightly sedated for comfort.

After the procedure, the interventional radiologist visits with the patient to provide additional information and ask how the patient is feeling. The patient is monitored by health professionals for a period of time before being released.

Interventional radiologists also perform emergency procedures to treat blockages in the brain from stroke or repair damaged blood vessels in the abdomen from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. In these cases, time is of the essence.

Reduced risk

While no treatment is risk-free, the risks of interventional radiology are typically lower than for open surgery. In addition:

  • Most procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis or require only a short hospital stay.

  • General anesthesia is usually not required.

  • Pain and recovery time are often significantly less than for open surgery.

  • Procedures can be less expensive than surgery or other alternatives.

Interventional radiology uses an array of minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to address many health care issues. It offers treatments that were not possible before the technology became widely available.

Paul Fox, M.D., is an interventional radiologist who treats patients at ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital and ProHealth Care’s Pewaukee clinical campus.

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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.