Definition and Overview

Also referred to as surgical radiology or vascular and interventional radiology (VIR), interventional radiology treatment (IRT) refers to image-guided minimally invasive techniques performed to treat, diagnose, and manage a wide range of health conditions.

Surgery remains to be one of the common options for the treatment of a variety of conditions or diseases. However, it has serious risks including massive bleeding and infection, as it typically requires large incisions. Traditional surgery also lengthens the recovery period, and the patient often finds himself in a degree of pain for a longer period of time.

One of the main goals of IRT is to carry out the much-needed procedures in a way that side effects, risks, and complications are significantly minimized. This is achieved by using image guidance such as a scope or scans like MRI, CT, PET, and X-ray.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A person who needs to go through surgery is first evaluated if he’s a potential candidate for IRT. Doctors are trained to always look out for the well-being of the patient, especially in the middle of a health crisis. Thus, IRT becomes one of the considerations prior to offering traditional surgery.

Normally, IRT is used for the treatment of:

  • Heart conditions as IRT can be used for angioplasty
  • Arterial stenosis (narrowing of the arteries)
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Internal bleeding
  • Embolism
  • Blood clots
  • Vein-related conditions such as blockage or dilation
  • Blockages in other organs such as the liver and the colon
  • Uterine fibroids through embolization

It is also performed for:

  • Ablation of tumors
  • Aspiration (collection of fluid for biopsy)
  • Fluid drainage

The concept of IRT is still new by medical standards. However, new studies reveal that its importance continues to expand. By using IRT, it’s expected that the patient will experience less pain and shortened hospital stays. The sooner the patient can go back to his regular activities, the better. It also reduces surgical risks due to faster recovery time and smaller incisions.

How Does the Procedure Work?

The specific IRT procedures can vary depending on the condition. But one of the most popular forms is called laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions on the surgical site then inserts a laparoscope, a long narrow tube that contains a camera and light. The camera sends live images of the internal organs and serves as a guide for the surgeon to properly locate and see the condition of the surgical site. The light illuminates the area, making sure every detail can be seen on the monitor.

The surgeon proceeds to the operation by using small surgical tools without having to remove the laparoscope. Normally, IRT is a short procedure, after which, the small incisions are sutured.

In the case of angioplasty, which may require stenting, catheters are being utilized to deliver the balloon into the narrowed blood vessel. The balloon is then expanded to dilate the blood vessels and a stent is attached to keep the path open for proper blood flow. The catheter and balloon may be introduced in different locations, including the artery of the wrist (radial artery) or the groin (femoral).

For those who have tumors, IRT may be necessary for mass ablation or cryosurgery, wherein a very low temperature is introduced into the site of the tumor to freeze it, so it can be easier to remove.

Possible Risks and Complications

IRT doesn’t completely eliminate surgical risks, but these risks should be mitigated, controlled, or reduced when using IRT. Some of the possible risks and complications include bruising and swelling at the surgical site, bleeding, pain, and discomfort. In some cases, infection can still happen.


  • Society of Interventional Radiology
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