What is an Interventional Radiologist?
Interventional Radiology is a branch of radiology where specialists use their skills in imaging along with excellent technical ability to perform minimally invasive treatments. Their background in radiology and expertise in reading scans means they are expert in using x-ray, ultrasound, CT or MRI in real time to safely guide treatment.
Interventional Radiology doctors are highly trained medical specialists who have undergone general medical training, radiology training and sub-specialty training in the field of minimally invasive therapy.
Interventional Radiology is a central specialty in the delivery of modern medical care. Many people may have been treated by Interventional Radiologists without having met one – IRs are commonly involved in the treatment of people with life-threatening bleeding either after trauma, surgery or labour.
Their wide knowledge of, and their frequent interaction with other medical specialties means they have a solid understanding of the range of treatment options, often being able to suggest cutting edge treatment options when patients have been told none exists.
IR specialists offer treatments in a special surgical theatre with high-end imaging x-ray equipment. The vast majority of treatments are performed under sedation (twilight) and local anaesthetic. Tiny specially designed tubes and wires are used inside blood vessels to deliver a range of treatments. Access is often through a pinhole incision with no scar. This allows IRs to treat conditions without large scars and the associated complications. IRs can also offer treatment to patients who are unable to have more invasive surgical treatments due to other medical conditions or blood-thinner medication.
Interventional Radiology has pioneered the treatment of disease in this manner across the body, for example in coronary stent procedures, leg arterial disease, and stroke treatment. New cutting-edge treatments offered by IR in this manner include treatment of obesity and osteoarthritis (currently under investigation in clinical trials).
As a medical specialist, treatments cannot be performed before you have been seen in rooms for a consultation. For further information on how NBIR can help you please see the disease and treatment sections or get in touch.
What are the benefits of Interventional Radiology?
- Minimally Invasive
- Less painful
- Quicker Recovery
- No scar
- Less expensive than surgical options
- Unfit or anticoagulated patients can be safely treated
What is Embolisation?
Embolisation is the blockage of blood vessels using special material performed by a highly trained specialist known as an Interventional Radiologist.
Embolisation has been performed for decades in emergencies for treatment of bleeding (haemorrhage) due to trauma, surgery or other conditions. This was how both UAE and PAE were first discovered to be effective treatment options for fibroids and prostatic urinary tract symptoms. The techniques are mature, safe and effective. A high level of dedicated training however is required to become an expert.
The role of embolisation procedures has widened in the past ten to twenty years and there are now safe and effective embolisation options to treat a range of conditions.
Is it permanent?
Various materials can be used during embolisation depending on the condition being treated. The IR is expert in using the best and most appropriate method. There are no concerns with airport security. Metal coils can cause some interference on CT and MRI scans but modern scanners, including those used at NBIR can overcome this.
- Coils – these special tiny metal fibres are used in internal bleeding or in the case of aneurysms. These remain inside the body and have been used for over 40 years. When delivered safely there are no adverse long term effects.
- Particles – known as spheres or beads, these are used in the treatment of fibroids and prostate disease. These can also be used to deliver targeted chemotherapy in the liver. These are also permanent and allow treatment of whole organs, often leading to shrinkage of the organ or death of the tumour.
- Gelfoam – in the setting of trauma or bleeding after childbirth this special material is used which usually dissolves in a few months.
- Glue – this ‘medical superglue’ (link to external glue article) has been used for decades in the treatment of bleeding and liver disease. Dr Quigley has extensive experience in its use during portal vein embolisation where it is used to grow healthy liver prior to cancer treatment. This glue is permanent and does not cause long-term problems.