Interventional Radiology

Interventional radiology is a rapidly growing area of medicine specializing in minimally invasive, targeted treatments performed using imaging guidance. Interventional radiology procedures are advances in medicine that can sometimes replace open surgical procedures. They are generally easier for the patient because they involve no large incisions, less risk, less pain and shorter recovery times.

Wellmont interventional radiologists use their expertise in reading X-rays, ultrasound and other medical images to guide small instruments such as catheters (tubes that measure just a few millimeters in diameter) through the blood vessels or other pathways to treat disease percutaneously, or through the skin. These procedures are typically much less invasive and much less costly than traditional surgery.

Advantages of interventional radiology:

  • Most procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis or require only a short hospital stay.
  • General anesthesia usually is not required.
  • Risk, pain and recovery time are often significantly reduced.
  • The procedures are sometimes less expensive than surgery or other alternatives.

Where is interventional radiology headed in the future?

  • As technology advances and high-quality imaging equipment becomes more widely available, interventional radiology is able to offer patients and referral physicians a host of new treatment options.

Common interventional procedures:

  • Angiography - Angiography uses an X-ray exam of the arteries and veins to diagnose blockages and other blood vessel problems. A catheter is used to enter the blood vessel and a contrast agent (X-ray dye) to make the artery or vein visible on the -ray.
  • Balloon angioplasty - This procedure, also known as transluminal angioplasty, opens blocked or narrowed blood vessels by inserting a very small balloon into the vessel and inflating it. It is used by interventional radiologists to unblock clogged arteries in the legs or arms (called peripheral vascular disease or PVD), kidneys, brain or elsewhere in the body.
  • Biliary drainage and stenting- -These procedures use a stent (small mesh tube) to open up blocked ducts and allow bile to drain from the liver.
  • Central venous access - Central venous access is an insertion of a tube beneath the skin and into the blood vessels so patients can receive medication or nutrients directly into the blood stream or so blood can be drawn. The procedure is commonly used for chemotherapy and dialysis treatments.
  • Embolization - Embolization is the delivery of clotting agents (coils, plastic particles, gelfoam, etc.) directly to an area that is bleeding or to block blood flow to a problem area, such as an aneurysm or a fibroid tumor in the uterus.
  • Gastrostomy tube insertion - This is a feeding tube inserted into the stomach for patients who are unable to take sufficient food by mouth.
  • Hemodialysis access maintenance - In this prodedure, angioplasty or thrombolysis is used to open blocked grafts for hemodialysis, which treats kidney failure.
  • Inferior vena cava filter - An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter is a medical device placed through a catheter in a large vein in the abdomen. This filter helps prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs.
  • Needle biopsy - This diagnostic test for breast, lung and other cancers is a possible alternative to surgical biopsy.
  • Nephrostomy tube placement - A nephrostomy tube is placed under the skin to decompress and temporarily drain an obstruction in the renal system.
  • Stenting - These small, flexible tubes made of plastic or wire mesh are used to treat a variety of medical conditions, typically holding open clogged blood vessels or other pathways that have been narrowed or blocked by tumors or obstructions.
  • Thrombolysis - Thrombolysis dissolves blood clots by injecting clot-busting drugs at the site of the clot.
  • Uterine artery embolization - This embolization procedure of uterine arteries helps stop life- threatening postpartum bleeding, potentially preventing hysterectomy.

Interventional radiology at Bristol Regional Medical Center

In addition to the common interventional radiology procedures detailed above, Drs. Richard Gentry and William Johnstone also perform the following:

  • Chemoembolization - Chemoembolization is the delivery of cancer-fighting agents directly to the site of a cancer tumor. This procedure is primarily used to treat cancers of the endocrine system, including melanoma and liver cancers.
  • Fallopian tube catheterization - This procedure uses a catheter to open blocked fallopian tubes without surgery and is primarily a treatment for infertility.
  • Stent-graft - This procedure reinforces a ruptured or ballooning section of an artery with a fabric-wrapped stent – a small, flexible mesh tube used to “patch” the blood vessel. A stent-graft is also known as an endograft.
  • TIPS (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt) - This life-saving procedure improves blood flow and prevents hemorrhage in patients with severe liver dysfunction.
  • Uterine fibroid embolization - This embolization procedure of uterine arteries shrinks painful, enlarged, benign tumors in the uterus. Uterine fibroid embolization is also called uterine artery embolization, or UAE.

If you have questions, please call the Wellmont Nurse Connection at 1-877-230-NURSE.

Society of Interventional Radiology