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Interventional radiology is a specialty of radiology in which image-guided procedures are used to nonsurgically diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases. Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in these minimally invasive procedures.
Interventional radiologists thread narrow tubes, or catheters, through the body's arteries and organs. At every step, they use the images from X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs, and other imaging devices to direct their work. This allows the interventional radiologist to open blocked blood vessels, drain obstructions obtain biopsies and perform many other procedures. Interventional radiology is one of the most rapidly advancing areas of medicine.
Interventional radiology treatments offer less risk, pain, and recovery time compared with traditional surgery. What previously required a trip to the operating room and several days in the hospital now can often be accomplished in a few hours, thanks to interventional radiology.
The five most important benefits to an interventional radiology procedure are:
What is the difference between an interventional radiologist and a traditional radiologist?
A traditional "diagnostic" radiologist uses imaging devices to rule out or uncover a problem, and then turns his findings over to another specialist. An interventional radiologist is trained to treat most of the diseases he will discover. As the treating physician, the interventional radiologist works closely with the patient, explaining and performing the procedure, handling any unexpected events, and providing follow up care with the patient.
Why come to Littleton Adventist Hospital for your interventional radiology procedure?
Littleton Adventist Hospital offers a wide array of advanced interventional radiology treatments. We have built a unique environment that supports collaboration among many types of specialists to deliver the most innovative and highly specialized services for our patients.
Our board-certified interventional radiologists come from the nation's most respected training programs and universities. Many of them are nationally recognized experts.
Read more about the
being treated with interventional radiology and the many available
Conditions treated through interventional radiologyInterventional
radiology uses minimally invasive medical technology to treat a wide
variety of conditions and disease states. Some of these include:
highly trained and respected interventional radiologists at Littleton
Adventist Hospital offer a broad spectrum of interventional radiology
procedures and treatments. Utilizing the latest advances in medical
technology, they are able to perform minimally invasive procedures that
provide our patients with faster recoveries than traditional surgery.
Here is a brief overview of the most common interventional radiology procedures.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Stent - Aneurysms
are created when the wall of a blood vessel has weakened, filled with
blood, and bulges out. Aneurysms most commonly occur in the abdomen or
chest areas. An interventional radiologist, working with a vascular
surgeon, can place a stent into the aneurysm, cutting it off from the
Angiography - An
x-ray of the arteries and veins to locate and diagnose blockages and
other blood vessel problems. The interventional radiologist may also use
a catheter to enter the blood vessel and a contrast agent, or x-ray
dye, to make the artery or vein visible on the x-ray.
Opening blocked or narrowed blood vessels by inserting a very small
balloon into the vessel and inflating it. This procedure allows the
interventional radiologist to unblock clogged arteries in the legs or
arms (referred to as peripheral arterial disease or PAD), kidneys, brain
or other parts of the body.
Biliary Drainage -
Biliary drainage is a minimally invasive procedure in which backed up
bile, a liquid released by the liver to aid in digestion, is drained
from the liver through a catheter.
Blood Clot Embolization -
Embolization can be used to dissolve or eradicate blood clots in the
legs. When patients have recurrent blood clots, pieces (emboli) may
float through the heart and lodge in the lungs. This potentially serious
problem can be treated by placing a filter into the large vein that
carries blood directly to the heart.
Catheter Insertions -
A catheter, or small tube, is inserted into large veins for giving
chemotherapy drugs, nutritional support, and hemodialysis. A catheter
may also be inserted prior to bone-marrow transplantation.
Cancer of the colon or other gastrointestinal tract tumors may "seed"
the liver with tumor cells. Surgery may not be a good option for
removing these cancer cells because they are distributed through the
liver. Interventional radiologists perform chemoembolization by
injecting an anticancer drug into the blood vessel that is feeding the
tumor. This concentrates the chemotherapy near the tumor and spares
Deep Vein Thrombosis - This
procedure is designed to rapidly break up a clot in the leg, restore
blood flow within the vein and potentially preserve valve function to
minimize the risk of post-thrombotic syndrome.
Intravascular Ultrasound -
The use of ultrasound inside a blood vessel to better visualize the
interior of the vessel in order to detect problems inside the blood
Needle Biopsy -
A small needle is inserted into the abdominal area in almost any part
of the body, guided by imaging techniques, to obtain a tissue biopsy.
This type of biopsy can provide a diagnosis without surgical
Nephrostomy Drainage - Used to drain urine from the kidneys in the advent of blockage.
Percutaneous Cryoablation - Use of extreme cold to destroy tumors.
Port Placement - Ports
provide access to the central vein system. They are placed in patients
to more easily administer fluids and medications. One common use is to
administer chemotherapy to cancer patients to avoid irritating the veins
and also to make it more comfortable to patients who avoid multiple
Radiofrequency Ablation - One
of several types of ablation therapy, this technique uses
high-frequency electrical energy to eliminate cancer tumors, painful
varicose veins or other conditions.
Sialogram - Used to obtain an x-ray image of the salivary ducts and related glandular structures.
SIR Spheres® - Radioactive spheres are inserted into the hepatic artery that feeds the tumor.
Stent Placement -
Stent grafting places a tube, called a stent, into large blood vessels,
when an aneurysm (a weakness in the vessel wall) is at risk of
rupturing and causing fatal bleeding. The stent graft procedure offers a
highly successful alternative to surgery and minimizes the risk of
Uterine Fibroid Embolization - The
interventional radiologist blocks both uterine arteries, carrying the
blood to the fibroids, by a targeted injection of fine particles. This
results in shrinkage of the fibroids and disappearance of symptoms such
as bleeding and pelvic pressure. For many women, this procedure may
replace a hysterectomy.
Varicocele Embolization - Varicose
veins in the testicles and scrotum are traditionally treated with
surgical ligation. This interventional radiology procedure is a
nonsurgical procedure that blocks, or embolizes, the blood flow into the
vein that is causing problems. This procedure has less risk, less pain
and less recovery time than traditional surgery.
Yttrium 90 Microsphere Embolization - This
procedure is a specialized therapy for liver cancer patients. The
radioactive isotope Y-90 is combined into microscopic spheres that
deliver radiation directly to the tumor, allowing for higher doses of
radiation without hurting healthy tissue. An interventional radiologist
injects these microspheres through a catheter into the artery supplying
blood to the tumor. The beads become lodged within the tumor vessels
where they exert their local radiation to cause tumor cell death.
You can also learn more about interventional radiology at The Society for Interventional Radiology.
reconstruction is a surgical procedure to reconstruct a weakened or
damaged vein. The procedure is most often used to treat venous
insufficiency, a chronic condition in which a vein has problems sending
blood from the legs to the heart. The problem arises as a result of a
weakened vein wall or leaking valves. Over time venous insufficiency may
lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called deep vein
DVT is a blood clot (thrombus) that forms in
a large, deep vein, usually in your lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. This
blood clot can break off and travel through the blood stream. If the
loose clot (embolism) travels to your lungs, brain or heart, it can
cause serious damage or death. For this reason, if you suffer from
chronic, serious venous insufficiency or chronic DVT, your doctor may
recommend venous reconstruction to address the underlying cause.
In addition to DVT, venous insufficiency
can lead to ulcers within the veins. Most ulcers heal quickly after
superficial vein surgery, but if the ulcers are deep within the vein,
treatment to correct the insufficiency may be recommended. To
reconstruct a faulty valve causing venous insufficiency, your
radiologist uses advanced X-ray imaging technology to maneuver a tiny
(catheter) tube outfitted with surgical tools through a small incision
in the vein near the damaged or weakened valve.
Several techniques exist to reconstruct
ineffective valves, including suturing a fold into the external wall of
the vein or wrapping it in a sleeve or band. Both procedures are
performed to decrease the diameter of the vein to improve venous flow.
Venous reconstruction may require an overnight stay in the hospital,
although some patients return home the same day.
Before venous reconstruction became
available, venous insufficiency treatment focused primarily on lifestyle
changes, such as wearing compression stockings, not sitting for long
periods, quitting smoking, and losing weight.
Risk factors for venous insufficiency may include:
Symptoms of venous insufficiency may include:
Diagnosis of Venous Insufficiency:
To diagnose venous insufficiency, your
doctor will ask about your symptoms and take a detailed medical history.
He or she will also perform a physical exam to look at your leg veins
when you are standing and sitting with your legs dangling. A duplex
ultrasound exam of your leg may also be recommended to check blood flow
in the veins and rule out other problems, such as a blood clot.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Clots
Before venous reconstruction became
available, anticoagulants (blood thinners) were often the standard of
care for people with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood thinners
gradually dissolve the clot but don’t get rid of it completely. In the
case of chronic, serious blood clots, your doctor may recommend venous
reconstruction to completely remove the clot and repair the vein at the
surgical site. The rationale for removing the clot is two-fold: to
eliminate the obstruction and to preserve valve function.
To remove the clot and repair the valve,
your radiologist uses advanced X-ray imaging technology to maneuver a
tiny tube (catheter) through a small incision in the vein near the clot.
The radiologist opens the vessel to physically remove the clot rather
than dissolve it. After removing the clot, your doctor may reconstruct
the valve. This often involves attaching a small piece of artery to
reroute blood flow to an area that has been prepared with stents,
temporary tubes placed in the blood vessel to lend support. An
interventional radiology procedure called balloon angioplasty may also
be used to open blood vessels by inserting tiny surgical balloons.
Preventive measures for DVT include:
Risk factors for DVT may include:
Symptoms of DVT may include:
DVT primarily affects the large veins in the lower leg and thigh, almost always on one side of your body and may include:
Diagnosis of DVT:
To diagnose DVT, your doctor will conduct a
physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and take a detailed medical
history. He or she may also order a D-dimer blood test to detect small
protein fragments that are present after a blood clot degrades and a
Doppler ultrasound exam to measure the blood flow in the major arteries
and veins of your legs.
If ongoing treatment has not been successful
in treating serious, chronic venous insufficiency or DVT, your doctor
may recommend venous reconstruction to address the underlying problem.
Your doctor will talk to you about all of your treatment options and
explain the venous reconstruction procedure in depth to make sure it is
right for you.
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