FAQs About Interventional Radiology


A growing number of Americans are avoiding their doctors at all costs, with feelings of fear and anxiety leading the charge. In fact, a 2022 study published by PatientPoint revealed some pretty shocking statistics on the matter.

Did you know that…

  • 39% of Americans have expressed feelings of anxiety before going to a doctor's appointment
  • 51% of Americans with a healthcare provider are too afraid to ask them about their health condition or symptoms
  • 69% of Americans are concerned they won't be able to understand the terminology their doctor uses
  • 50% of Americans said they worry a provider will be insulted or get angry if they push to find out more about their condition

It is disheartening to come across such statistics - after all, if we can't get people in to see their doctors, how can we keep them healthy?

If you find yourself fitting into any of the aforementioned categories, fear not - Vascular and Interventional Partners (VIP) is here to lend a helping hand.

At VIP, we recognize the often overwhelming nature of healthcare and are committed to breaking down the associated stigmas. One way we achieve this is by offering complimentary resources to assist you in preparing for your visit. 

This blog post serves as a valuable tool to prepare you for your interventional radiology journey by answering some of the internet’s most frequently asked questions so that you know what to expect. Let’s dive in! 

Q: “What exactly is interventional radiology?”

A: Interventional radiology (IR) is a specialized medical field that focuses on using minimally invasive procedures to diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of conditions. These procedures are guided by advanced imaging technologies such as X-rays, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, and CT scans.

The distinguishing characteristic of interventional radiology is its emphasis on using imaging guidance to perform procedures without the need for traditional open surgery. Instead of making large incisions, interventional radiologists, guided by real-time imaging, use small incisions or needle punctures to access the body's internal structures. 

“I love that we can help patients in a less invasive way… we're an innovation ground. We can do quite a bit of procedural work in any organ system in the body, and we can do that in a way that's really more safe for the patient than an open surgery.” - Dr. Chris Goettl, MD

This approach offers several benefits, including reduced risk, shorter recovery times, less pain, and fewer complications compared to traditional surgical methods.

Q: “Who are interventional radiologists?”

A: Interventional radiologists are highly specialized medical doctors who perform minimally invasive, precision-targeted treatments under the guidance of advanced imaging technologies. 

Proficient in interpreting complex diagnostic images, these experts skillfully employ their knowledge to navigate minute instruments through the body’s vascular network to address various conditions.

Notably, interventional radiologists undergo extensive training and hold board-certified status, having completed fellowship programs that focus on the mastery of minimally invasive interventions aided by imaging guidance. This specialized training is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. 

When entrusting your care to an interventional radiologist, you can be assured that they work collaboratively with your primary care physician or other specialists to ensure you receive the most comprehensive care possible. This synergistic approach ensures that your health needs are addressed with the highest level of expertise and consideration.

Q: “Is interventional radiology a new specialty?”

A: No, interventional radiology is not new. In fact, it has been around since the mid-1970s and was created as a result of advances in diagnostic imaging. And it’s because of these advances that interventional radiologists are now often viewed as the founders of modern medicine. 

This became especially apparent with the development of angioplasty and the first catheter-delivered stent used to treat blocked arteries in the legs, which now saves patients every day from major surgery or amputation. 

Over the decades, interventional radiology has continually grown and adapted to the changing landscape of healthcare by integrating emerging technologies (such as artificial intelligence) into its practice model. Every year, these innovations nurture growing success rates over traditional methods. 

For this reason, interventional radiology is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after medical specialties in the world.

Q: “How do interventional radiology procedures work?”

A: In the simplest terms, interventional radiologists use imaging equipment (like X-rays or ultrasound) to see inside of a patient’s body and pinpoint where the problem is located. Then, they map out how to get there without needing surgery - usually by guiding tiny wires or tubes (like catheters)  through different parts of the vascular network.

Using this method ensures that our doctors have an incredibly precise understanding of where they want these tools to go (and how best to get there) before beginning treatment.

“It may sound futuristic, but that’s exactly how some of the most innovative and effective treatments in medicine are happening today.” - Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR)

Interventional radiologists can then treat disease, damaged vessels, or tumors directly at the source rather than having to perform major surgery. This reduces risks associated with large incisions for patients, making it much less disruptive and time-consuming when trying to address medical concerns. 

For example, uterine fibroids (which may affect up to 80% of women) can now be treated with embolization therapy, which involves shrinking them by cutting off their blood supply. This innovative procedure completely eliminates the need for hysterectomy surgery.

The best part is that the use of interventional radiology isn’t limited only to certain treatments - anything from cancerous growths to arthritis can be treated using this type of procedure because they all involve vascular access points. Thus, the potential is truly limitless!

Q: “What are the advantages of interventional radiology procedures?”

A: Below are a few key benefits of interventional radiology in comparison to surgical intervention.

Minimally Invasive Approach

IR uses small needles with imaging guidance rather than open surgery for many treatments, which helps minimize associated risks, such as infection, scarring, or blood loss. Moreover, it can often be done on an outpatient basis, so hospital stays can be eliminated entirely! 

Pain Reduction & Faster Recovery Time 

Many patients experience less pain associated with IR treatments because general anesthesia is usually not required for them. What’s more? The amount of time needed for recovery after an IR procedure is significantly reduced compared to most surgeries – sometimes just hours rather than days or weeks! 

“In the outpatient setting, there's a lot more personalized care. It gives us the ability to really spend more time with patients and, if we can do it in an outpatient setting in a minimally invasive way with minimal risks and really good outcomes, it's fantastic.” - Dr. Kevin Hirsch, MD

Cost Savings 

Because these therapies don’t require prolonged hospital stays as regular surgeries do, IR procedures are typically much more affordable than surgical alternatives. Plus, many of the procedures that we perform here at VIP are now covered by insurance providers! This makes great economic sense for both patients and healthcare providers alike.

Q: “How safe is the radiation during the treatment?”

A: The safety of radiation associated with interventional procedures is the highest priority for those involved in the practice. Interventional radiologists, physician assistants, radiology technicians, and other members of our team undergo extensive training and follow strict protocols to ensure patient safety throughout each procedure. 

This may include incorporating beam angle adjustment, shielding devices, reduced cone diameter settings for fluoroscopy machines, and lead aprons on all personnel in the room with a patient undergoing an exam or procedure involving ionized radiation. 

Additionally, specific safety regulations are subject to oversight by organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state regulatory agencies who review these standards to ensure proper care is given during any treatment involving radiation exposure. 

At every step of any interventional radiology procedure, there are safeguards built in at every turn designed specifically for maximum patient protection against dangerous levels of radiation exposure. This includes state-of-the-art monitoring equipment that alerts personnel if high levels of radiation accumulate or exceed predetermined limits so that we can take precautions right away if needed. 

Q: “What conditions can interventional radiology help treat?”

A: Interventional radiology can help treat an array of conditions, including:

  • Liver Cancer
  • Vascular Diseases (such as Peripheral Artery Disease)
  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (Enlarged Prostate)
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Knee Pain 
  • Compression Fractures
  • Spinal Fractures
  • Vascular Abnormalities in the Brain
  • And More!

Using their expertise in imaging technology combined with knowledge regarding various treatments available today, interventional radiologists are uniquely positioned to offer greater access and affordability to quality healthcare services while minimizing invasiveness where possible. 

Don’t see your condition listed? Click here to explore our directory of treatable conditions.

Q: “Is interventional radiology right for me?”

A:  In this new era of medicine, personalized care is all about doing what's best for you. So, if you’re looking for minimally invasive treatment options that reduce pain, risk, and recovery time, interventional radiology may be the right choice for you. 

Recent technology and imaging breakthroughs have opened up new treatment options for patients that you may not (yet) know about!

“We get you in and out as soon as we can, but safely, and you'll be smiling when you leave.” - Dr. Cole Mendenhall, MD

Talk to your doctor about treatment alternatives. And if you're considering open surgery for your condition, consider getting a second opinion from an interventional radiologist before making a final decision. In many cases, there are alternative therapies available for these conditions that could significantly decrease pain, risk, and recovery time.

Click here to learn more!

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