What is Interventional Radiology?

Most people have experience with diagnostic radiology, as x-rays and other types of imaging are used in the diagnosis of many conditions and illnesses, but what they may not know, is radiology is a highly effective, common way to treat disease. This is known as Interventional radiology (IR).

Becoming an interventional radiologist requires years of training. Radiologists are physicians trained extensively in both diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology, before choosing a subspecialty.

How does Interventional Radiology work?

As the practice of interventional radiology continues to develop, radiologists are able to complete more complicated surgeries without having to create large incisions in the body, this is called “minimally invasive surgery.

Interventional Radiology uses image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases in nearly every organ system. Radiologists use targeted scopes to look inside the body, guiding tiny catheters and other instruments through blood vessels and other internal pathways, to the site of injury or illness. Once identified internally, an appropriate procedure is then performed to treat the malady. Interventional radiology dramatically reduces the length of hospital stays, infection rates, and recovery time. 

Some of the conditions treated by an interventional radiologist include cancer, trauma, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disease, neurological disease, metabolic disease as well as neonatal and urological conditions. Interventional radiology can also help reduce the need for opioid painkillers as there are procedures available specifically to treat chronic pain. It can also be used to treat traumatic injuries by reaching blood vessels in damaged areas to control bleeding.

Radiologists and surgeons often work in tandem during emergency procedures, working in the operating room together. One performing traditional surgery and the other using minimally invasive techniques to treat a patient.  

What is the responsibility of an interventional radiologist?

An interventional radiologist is responsible for the imaging and diagnostic aspect of patient care and treatment. They must be able to read and interpret scans, and use them to perform procedures. A traditional surgeon opens the body cavity to view the affected area, an interventional radiologist must use imaging technology and specialized operating tools such as electromagnetic, optical, laser, and robotic guidance systems to perform medical procedures.

Some common IR procedures include:

Can your interventional radiologist be considered negligent?

When testing has been completed, the interventional radiologist must write a report using clear and concise language. They must also be able to read scans and communicate the findings to a team of physicians responsible for the patient care. 

Simple diagnostic errors can arise if the radiologist makes mistakes in reading the scans. There is the possibility that the radiologist may see something that is not there, they may interpret a shadow incorrectly, or see something in the scan that results in the incorrect or delayed diagnosis of an illness.

During a procedure, technical mistakes can be made due to deficient skill level. For example, taking multiple passes to position an ablation probe resulting in a collapsed lung.

On the other hand, mistakes can be made even if a radiologist is highly skilled, but the decision making is flawed. For example, not sufficiently checking the patient for preexisting issues prior to treatment, causing the patient to respond negatively.

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