What is interventional radiology?

Radiology takes pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays look primarily at bones, while ultrasounds and CT scans look primarily at soft tissues. Interventional radiology uses those pictures to improve precision during minimally invasive procedures that perform delicate tasks in sensitive areas of the body with very small tools.

Ultrasound is the most common type of imaging used. Fluoroscopy, which is a type of imaging related to X-rays and CT scans are also used.

The main uses of interventional radiology are to help diagnose a condition, to place a medical device in the body and to treat a disease. Interventional radiology can replace surgery in some treatments for liver disease, kidney disease and blood clots.

  • Needle biopsies are an example of how interventional radiology can help diagnose a condition.
  • Feeding tubes, drainage tubes, shunts and peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) are all examples of medical devices that interventional radiologists can place in the body to help it heal and/or gather information.
  • Draining an abscess or other abnormal fluid collection in the body is an example of how interventional radiology can treat a condition.

Minimally invasive procedures are typically associated with:

  • A possibility of avoiding surgery
  • Higher levels of safety and efficiency
  • Less pain than open surgery
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Small incisions that usually requires no stitches and cause less scarring
  • Lower costs compared to surgery