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What Is Interventional Radiology?

My main objective at Texas Children’s Hospital is to keep every child I see healthy and make their visit as pain-free and comfortable as possible. Every day within interventional radiology is a day I spend achieving this goal. Interventional radiology (IR) is changing the meaning behind the word ‘procedure’, a potentially scary word for you and your child. This branch of radiology uses imaging to allow physicians to perform minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat diseases. By using different imaging tests, such as ultrasound, fluoroscopy (live x-rays) and/or CT scans, physicians can perform a remarkable variety of procedures that can minimize risk to the patient. Each of the radiologists at Texas Children’s Hospital who perform IR have additional training in interventional techniques and procedures involving a needle; most commonly placing catheters into blood vessels, performing biopsies and draining abscesses or other abnormal collections of pus/fluid in the body. The most common imaging technique used to guide these procedures is ultrasound. Ultrasound does not involve any radiation and allows us to watch needles moving in an out of specific tissues or blood vessels without risking unnecessary pain and discomfort. Benefits of minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Safe and efficient
  • Possibility of avoiding surgery
  • Less risky and less painful, compared to open surgery
  • Less post-procedural discomfort, so less hospital stay
  • Shorter recovery time, so children will be out of bed sooner
  • Very small incision, usually requiring no stitches and less scarring
  • Typically less costly than equivalent surgical procedure
  • Vascular access

Often when your child is admitted to the hospital there is a need for venous access (introducing a needle to a vein) for various reasons, such as blood draws for obtaining lab tests and for administering medications, such as antibiotics. If you need regular injections of medicine over a long period of time, venous access can protect your veins. Venous access catheters (long, tiny tubes) allow physicians to draw blood from your child while reducing the need for repeatedly puncturing your child’s blood vessels. The types of catheters that may be placed include peripheral catheters (called PICC lines) in the arms or legs, and catheters in the neck, leg or under the collarbone (called central lines). The PICC line is the most common method for providing long term venous access in your child. This catheter is usually required for blood draws or administering medications for more than 7 days. Your child may be able to undergo this procedure while awake, using only local numbing medication at the puncture site. Some children may require sedation/anesthesia for the procedure, which is readily available in our department.

What to Expect: Please be available for providing consent for this procedure to be performed on your child.  If sedation or anesthesia is required, the nurse/technologist and anesthesiologist will help bring your child to the interventional radiology suite. The procedure takes about 30 minutes. After the procedure, the interventional radiologist will inform you about how the procedure went. You will be able to see your child after the procedure has been performed.  If your child receives sedation or anesthesia we will carefully monitor them until they are fully awake. For more information about interventional radiology at Texas Children’s Hospital, visit here.

Dr. Kamlesh U. Kukreja, Section Chief, Interventional Radiology