An interventional radiologist is an expert radiologist – medical imaging professional – who has undertaken extensive training and specialized in interventional radiology: the science of performing the essential medical intervention in the least invasive way by using sophisticated imaging techniques to guide therapy.
Radiology is a professional discipline related to medicine which requires years of thorough training. To specialize in interventional radiology, the radiologist must further study the techniques of therapeutic radiological intervention. They work alongside medical doctors in a variety of fields.
Interventional radiologists provide direct therapeutic interventions and so have immediate contact with patients, often in an emergency or life-threatening situations. They work largely in radiology departments of hospitals or specialist treatment centres as their work requires the use of high specification modern imaging technology.
Using up to date medical imaging technology means that any medical or surgical interventions are precisely guided and therefore require only the very minimum of invasive techniques.
Imaging technology like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT) and X-rays are used to pinpoint medical problems. Fluoroscopy is one of the most common techniques used by interventional radiologists; this means using X-ray technology to produce real-time moving images, rather than one-off still X-ray pictures. This means that organs can be imaged while performing their normal movements and functions, and radio-opaque dye (a dye that shows up on X-rays) can be used to map blood flow and physiological function.
There are various medical disciplines where patients now commonly benefit from precision radiological intervention.
Some of the most common cardiac procedures are performed under radiological guidance, where fluoroscopic imaging can be used to achieve precise views of the coronary arteries and structure of the heart, enabling precision implementation of a range of therapies such as the identification and treatment of narrowings or blockages of the coronary arteries.
These techniques are used in other problems involving the blood vessels or the vessels of organs like the gallbladder or kidneys. Interventional radiologists may subspecialize in disorders of certain body systems, such as cardiology or nephrology. Radiology can be used to precisely guide removal of gallstones, kidney stones, to treat blockages in the bile duct, or to inject clot-busting drugs directly into blocked or narrowed areas of blood vessels.
Once the radiological intervention is complete, the patients are usually followed up by ward or clinic doctors. Some interventions may warrant further imaging at a later date, and this will be arranged by the medical team.
Due to its incredibly precise nature which avoids unnecessary damage to the parts of the body surrounding the problem areas, interventional radiology is associated with extremely good outcomes for the patient, and its use is on the rise in many areas of medicine and surgery. When treatment requires any incisions (cuts) to access problems in the body, the use of precision imaging means that these incisions can be tiny, resulting in less trauma, less risk of scarring, shorter recovery times, and a better patient experience.