Understanding Interventional Radiology: A Helpful Guide To The Basics


Even when it’s necessary, surgery can be terrifying - especially for those who don’t know what to expect. In fact, according to a 2020 study by The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, nearly 60% of people experience significant anxiety before a surgical procedure.

There are many reasons that a person might avoid surgery, whether for fear of needles, waking up during the procedure, or recovery complications. And, despite the heroic attempts of many healthcare providers to alleviate this feeling, many people will not get the care they need because of it. 

Here is where the exciting field of interventional radiology comes in to save the day: using the latest and greatest advancements in medical technology, our doctors can give patients the care they need using a minimally invasive approach. 

The best part? Interventional radiology is done without a scalpel. 

Today, we will explore the fascinating world of interventional radiology - what it is, how it works, and what conditions it can treat. We’re also going to answer some of the internet’s most frequently asked questions surrounding the topic so that you can have all the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your healthcare. Let’s get started!

Interventional radiology is a rapidly growing subspecialty within the radiology field that is distinguished by a “less is more” approach to healthcare. Using numerous advancements in imaging technology, interventional radiologists are able to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions non-surgically. 

There are many benefits to this approach, which provides for: 

  • Reduced Risk
  • Less Pain
  • Shorter Recovery Times
  • Shortened Hospital Stays
  • Advanced Precision

The Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) asserts that this field is “synonymous with modern medicine,” as it can be used to treat many complex conditions - even cancer! Let’s take a look at a real-life example. 

Consider, for example, a woman with uterine fibroids (non-cancerous growths on the uterus). Until recently, a full hysterectomy was the only known remedy for this condition - a procedure that not only takes an immense physical toll but also renders a woman incapable of ever conceiving a child. 

But thanks to the wonders of interventional radiology, women with uterine fibroids now have more options than ever before. One of which is Uterine Fibroid Embolization - a cutting-edge procedure that shrinks these sizable growths, preserving the uterus while considerably improving a woman’s quality of life. 

Thanks to the amazing applications of interventional radiology, women can now experience comprehensive relief without the possible complications of invasive surgeries. 

What Else Can Interventional Radiology Do?

Because of our ability to precisely reach deep areas beyond what’s accessible by open surgery, interventional radiology has become an essential tool for treating complex conditions like Peripheral Artery Disease or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia - but that’s not all! 

Interventional radiology can also be utilized for diagnostic purposes. Using complex image-guided techniques, our doctors can diagnose conditions quickly and with unparalleled accuracy, allowing us to perform targeted treatments that minimize potential damage to surrounding healthy tissue. 

This innovative field also has exciting applications for non-invasive wound care and can even be used for preventative purposes - screening for cardiovascular issues, for example, before they evolve into a more serious health concern. 

The field of interventional radiology is quickly emerging at the forefront of modern medicine as one of the most efficient, pain-free ways to treat both common and complex medical conditions. 

Interventional Radiology and Diagnostic Radiology

Interventional radiology has become a preferred diagnostic tool for many practitioners because it provides accurate diagnoses in real-time with minimal patient discomfort - an ideal choice for doctors and patients alike.

For diagnostic purposes, interventional radiology is used to generate high-definition images of the affected area. Radiographs are perhaps the most commonly used tool for this, but it may also involve other types of imaging technology as well, such as:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
  • Fluoroscopy

These tools enable our doctors to obtain detailed pictures of your body’s interior without requiring major surgery. Plus, they allow us a much more elaborate view of the affected area than can be obtained with the naked eye.

One example of interventional radiology’s incredible potential in this aspect involves the visualization of blocked arteries. Using advanced imaging, our doctors can pinpoint the exact location of an arterial blockage without the need for invasive surgery. This provides precise information on the size and shape of the blockage, which is then used to guide treatment recommendations.

The potential applications of interventional radiology as a diagnostic tool continue to expand alongside advancements in technology, providing healthcare providers and patients with far greater insight into what’s happening inside our bodies.

Interventional Radiology Procedures

The field of interventional radiology has revolutionized how complicated conditions are treated with unlimited potential. At Vascular & Interventional Partners, we are proud to equip residents of Phoenix and the surrounding areas with access to incredible surgical alternatives that can vastly improve their quality of life.

Keep reading to learn more about the most common conditions treated here at VIP. 

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease is a common circulatory problem caused by the buildup of plaque in your arteries. This will eventually restrict blood flow to your limbs, resulting in mild-to-severe pain and reduced mobility. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of effective treatment options for this condition, ranging from medication to lifestyle changes. It can also be treated by an interventional radiologist via Angioplasty (a procedure that widens the affected arteries), stent placement, or Thrombolytic surgery.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is commonly discovered at advanced stages, making many patients ineligible for surgery. Moreover, the presence of underlying cirrhosis in such patients puts them at a heightened risk of liver toxicity from systemic cancer treatment. 

So what other options are there?

Interventional radiology provides hope to liver cancer patients by offering therapies that can directly target cancerous cells. At ViP, this can be done via Y-90 Radioembolization (a procedure that pairs radiation therapy with embolization), Tumor Ablation, or Transarterial Chemoembolization (which delivers tumor-killing particles into the arteries that directly feed the tumor).

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (Enlarged Prostate)

Did you know that nearly 30% of men with an enlarged prostate refuse treatment for their condition because of the unappealing treatment options? Well, not anymore! 

Nowadays (thanks to the advancement of interventional radiology), Phoenix residents with BPH can experience relief without fear of surgical complications. 

An enlarged prostate can be treated one of three ways at VIP: 

  • Prostatic Stents (to widen the opening of the urethra)
  • Transurethral Microwave Thermotherapy (to correct a blockage using concentrated heat)
  • Transurethral Radiofrequency Needle Ablation (to correct a blockage using a combination of concentrated heat and high-frequency radio waves)

Compression Fractures

Spinal compression fractures occur when excessive pressure is applied to a weakened vertebra, leading to the cracking of the bone and a subsequent loss of height. As you can imagine, this can result in significant pain and discomfort. 

And these types of injuries are much more common than you might think! According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, nearly 700,000 patients experience spinal compression fractures each year. 

In some cases, compression fractures may heal naturally, accompanied by pain medication and strict rest, but others require medical intervention. There are many treatment options available for compression fractures here at ViP - one of which is called Kyphoplasty. This minimally invasive procedure involves injecting orthopedic cement directly into the fractured vertebra to stabilize the bone.

Knee Pain (Osteoarthritis)

Arthritis in the knee can cause significant pain and discomfort, along with reduced mobility. This condition can, of course, be managed with pain medication and regular exercise, but to really resolve discomfort, many patients have sought out minimally invasive treatment options. One of which is Genicular Artery Embolization (GAE). 

GAE is a minimally invasive procedure that immediately and effectively relieves pain in patients suffering from osteoarthritis by reducing blood flow to the problematic knee lining. This cutting-edge therapy provides long-term benefits and represents a hope-restoring treatment option that has changed the lives of many patients who previously suffered from chronic knee pain.

As you can see, interventional radiology is a field with unlimited potential. To learn more about the many common (and not-so-common) conditions that can be treated with the incredible advancements of interventional radiology, check out our website

The Benefits of Interventional Radiology

One of the primary advantages of interventional radiology is its ability to minimize patient risk. Unlike conventional surgery, our field requires very limited access to the body, greatly reducing the chances of infection and other potential complications. This minimally invasive approach also reduces exposure to radiation that can occur during diagnostic imaging tests (such as radiographs or CT scans) for both the doctor AND their patient.

Another major benefit of interventional radiology is faster recovery times. Since there are no large incisions or inner bodily trauma to deal with, patients can often return home on the day of their procedure and resume normal activities much sooner than with most traditional surgeries. As an added bonus, this shorter recovery time can also reduce hospital costs since most of our procedures are done on an outpatient basis.

Finally, interventional radiologists strive to make each procedure as comfortable and painless as possible for their patients. By using catheters inserted through very small openings in the body, doctors can gain direct access to your vascular network and administer treatments directly into targeted areas. This leads to less overall pain for both routine and complex procedures alike, allowing people to obtain the care they need with minimal physical hardship afterward.

FAQs About Interventional Radiology

“Are Interventional Radiologists doctors?”

Yes, Interventional Radiologists are doctors. At ViP, each of our physicians has earned an MD degree from a highly reputable medical school and is board-certified. They also have completed fellowship-level training in interventional radiology and/or neuro-interventional radiology - knowledge that they also share with local and teaching hospitals throughout the Phoenix area. 

Our physicians at ViP have been consistently recognized as some of the “best doctors” in the Valley, year after year. Their exceptional dedication and expertise have earned them this distinction – making us proud to have them as part of our team.

“Is interventional radiology safe?”

Interventional radiology is one of the safest healthcare options available. Don’t believe us? See for yourself!

One study conducted by researchers at the Radiology Society of North America found that procedures performed by interventional radiologists were associated with fewer complications and shorter hospital stays compared to those performed using traditional surgical techniques. 

Additionally, research from the British Journal of Radiology revealed a 93.6% average success rate for CT-guided interventions, with less than 2% of patients experiencing major complications. 

“What are the risks of interventional radiology?”

Like all medical procedures, interventional radiology does have its risks - infection, exposure to mild radiation, etc. However, the potential risks involved with an interventional procedure are trivial in comparison to those associated with traditional open surgery. 

If they are being treated by an experienced, trustworthy, and board-certified physician and follow all pre and post-operative instructions to the letter, patients should have no cause for concern.

“Where are interventional radiology procedures performed?”

Interventional procedures can either be performed in a hospital setting or at a specialty outpatient clinic like ours.

“Interventional radiology or surgery?” 

When it comes to medical care, both interventional radiology and surgery have their pros and cons. Ultimately, the decision of which one is better for an individual patient should be determined on a case-by-case basis by the patient’s healthcare team.

In terms of safety, interventional radiology generally poses fewer risks due to its minimally invasive nature and use of imaging techniques. As a result, recovery time tends to be shorter than with surgical procedures as well, making it less disruptive to patients’ daily lives. 

From a financial standpoint, interventional radiology also has an advantage over surgery in that it tends to be more cost-effective. The duration of interventional procedures is typically much shorter, and many can even be done on an outpatient basis. 

Surgery, on the other hand, might be more expensive due to hospital stays or post-operative care. These things can add up quickly depending on the complexity of the operation being performed.

Ultimately though, it is important for patients to consider all of their options thoroughly and educate themselves so that they can make informed decisions about which option best addresses their healthcare needs. 


Interventional radiology is a rapidly evolving field that offers many opportunities for those seeking safe and effective medical care. With the right team of professionals, the innovation and expertise found in this specialized field can help revolutionize the way people receive their healthcare today.

What’s your experience with interventional radiology? 
ViP, in the Phoenix Arizona area, would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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