What Is Interventional Radiology?
Interventional radiology (IR) is the medical specialty that uses medical imaging (radiology) to guide doctors during minimally invasive surgical procedures.
What Is an Interventional Radiologist?
An interventional radiologist is a doctor who’s specially trained to do minimally invasive surgical procedures using medical imaging.
Why Would Someone Need One?
Interventional radiologists can treat many kinds of problems, including:
- ascites (extra fluid buildup in the abdomen)
- biliary stenosis (narrowing of the tubes that carry bile out of the liver)
- blocked veins (venous thrombosis, deep vein thrombosis)
- blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolism, PE)
- esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus)
- expanded arteries (aneurysms)
- kidney stones
- pleural effusion (fluid buildup around the lungs)
- stenosis (narrowing of the arteries)
- problems with lymph vessels
They do medical tests and procedures such as:
- angiography (to study the inside of blood vessels and treat things like narrowing or an aneurysm)
- bone/tumor treatments (placing small needles inside tumors and killing them while protecting surrounding tissue)
- drain placements (to remove fluid buildup in the lungs or abdomen)
- joint aspirations or injections (for injury, arthritis, or inflammation)
- inserting central lines
- GI procedures or placing a gastrostomy tube
- treating vascular malformations, including:
- laser therapy to treat bleeding and painful skin lesions that happen with vascular malformations
What Is Their Training?
Interventional radiologist training typically includes:
- 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
- 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
- 1 year of training in an internship (usually internal medicine)
- 3–4 years of training in a diagnostic radiology residency program
- 1–2 years of IR fellowship or an independent IR residency
They also might have:
- expertise in a subspecialty area (for example, pediatric cardiology) after 3 years or more in a fellowship program. A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and residency training.
Good to Know
Treatments done by interventional radiologists may prevent the need for regular surgery. Regular surgery often requires general anesthesia, but most IR procedures can be done with local anesthesia and sedation. Also, the recovery from IR procedures is usually quicker and less painful than recovery from regular surgery.