Interventional radiology

Interventional radiologists work with the smallest of instruments to treat the biggest of health problems. Using the least invasive techniques possible, the interventional radiology team at Edward-Elmhurst’s Interventional Radiology Outpatient Clinic strives to provide you with a faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay.

Minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment

Interventional radiology is a medical subspecialty of radiology that uses image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases in nearly every organ of the body. Many conditions that once required surgery can now be treated non-surgically by interventional radiologists. These minimally invasive techniques help to minimize risk, reduce infection and recovery time, shorten hospital stays, and improve outcomes for patients.

Using X-rays, CT, ultrasound, MRI and other imaging modalities, interventional radiologists capture images to help direct interventional instruments throughout the body, often in spaces less than two millimeters. The radiologist inserts catheters through these tiny places and straight to the area for study or treatment. These minimally invasive techniques help to minimize risk, reduce infection and recovery time, shorten hospital stays, and improve outcomes for patients.

Conditions we treat with interventional radiology

Conditions commonly addressed by interventional treatments include aneurysms, arterial disease, deep venous thrombosis, vertebral compression fractures, varicose veins and uterine fibroids. IR can also be used to treat cancer by delivering targeted radiation and chemotherapy to the blood vessels.

Interventional radiology procedures

Our skilled interventional radiologists perform the following IR procedures:

  • Angioplasty
  • Chemoembolization for liver cancer treatments
  • Diagnostic angiograms
  • Sacroplasty
  • Selective internal radiation therapy for liver tumors (SIR-spheres Y-90)
  • Stent placements
  • Thermal ablation
  • Uterine fibroid embolizations
  • Ultrasound- and CT-guided biopsy
  • Ultrasound guided tendon and plantar fasciitis treatment (Tenex)
  • Varicose vein ablation
  • Vertebroplasty/Kyphoplasty

Interventional radiology FAQs

What is interventional radiology?

Interventional radiology is a medical subspecialty that uses common imaging techniques, such as ultrasound, CT and X-rays, to guide diagnostic and therapeutic tools to an area of disease within the body. Because procedures are performed through very small incisions, risks are minimized, recovery time is shortened, and hospitalizations are seldom required.

How does an interventional radiologist differ from a diagnostic radiologist?

Accredited interventional radiologists have completed subspecialty training in performing interventions beyond those required of a diagnostic radiologist. While interventional radiology is a relatively new medical subspecialty, interventional radiologists are credited with having pioneered cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and stent deployment to open occluded arteries.

What is the difference between interventional radiology procedures and conventional surgery?

Usually interventional radiology procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. The interventional radiologist uses imaging techniques through a tiny incision; these procedures achieve similar or improved outcomes with shorter recovery times and lower complication rates.

What are the risks associated with interventional radiology procedures?

Risks exist with any medical procedure and are often unique to the organ. But with interventional radiology, the risks of infection and significant bleeding are minimized because the incision is so small and because medical imaging helps guide the interventional radiologist during the procedure. Most interventional radiology procedures do not require general anesthesia, so patients are up and around more quickly and in less pain.

What is interventional oncology?

It’s a component of interventional radiology and the fourth pillar of comprehensive cancer care — the other three being medical oncology, surgical oncology and radiation oncology. Interventional oncologic techniques provide targeted therapies to diseased organs. Examples of interventional oncology tools include ablation (destroying solid tumors with localized extreme heat or cold), chemoembolization (precise delivery of chemotherapy to the liver) and radioembolization (precise delivery of radiation therapy to the liver).

What are some interventional radiology alternatives to common surgical procedures?

The left column of this chart shows some conditions and the interventional radiology alternatives (middle column) to the traditional surgical procedures (right column).

 To treat    
 Interventional Radiology Procedure       Traditional Surgical Procedure      
 Uterine fibroids  Uterine fibroid embolization  Hysterectomy or myomectomy
 Peripheral arterial disease  Angioplasty, atherectomy, stent placement      Open surgical bypass
 Varicose veins  Thermal vein ablation, sclerotherapy  Surgical ligation and stripping
 Varicoceles  Varicocele embolization  Surgical ligation
 Cancer  Ablation or embolization  Surgical resection
 Diagnostic tissue sampling        Ultrasound or CT-guided biopsy  Open surgical biopsy

Additionally, interventional radiology allows the collection of diagnostic tissue samples through ultrasound or CT-guided biopsy. The traditional surgical technique would require an open surgical biopsy.