Interventional radiology, a specialty often referred to as “the surgery of the 21st century,” was founded by American radiologist Charles Dotter in 1964, when he invented angioplasty to treat clogged blood vessels without surgery.
Interventional radiologists use their special training in medical imaging to guide miniaturized instruments through small nicks in the skin (see photo) to treat a variety of conditions without surgery. These procedures have several potential advantages over their surgical alternatives including:
- less pain
- fewer complications and risks
- shorter recovery times
- less (or no) blood loss.
Interventional radiologists pioneered the trend of minimally invasive therapy that has revolutionized modern medical care.
What’s the difference between an interventional radiologist and a surgeon?
A surgeon cuts you open, looks inside to see what’s wrong, fixes it, then sews you up. An interventional radiologist looks inside you with imaging (CT, ultrasound, x-rays, or MRI), then uses imaging to painlessly pass tiny tubes or needles into the site of disease and fixes it without an incision or stitches. General anesthesia is rarely used by IR’s, usually only mild IV sedation is needed.
A wide variety of conditions can be treated with these non-surgical techniques, including: blocked arteries in the legs, kidney, brain and elsewhere, aortic aneurysms, uterine fibroid tumors, stroke, spine fractures, lung, liver and kidney cancer, liver failure, kidney failure, varicocele, pelvic pain in women, varicose vein disease, and many other conditions.
If your hospital doesn’t have a strong interventional radiology presence, you may not be getting modern medical care there!