Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of medical conditions do you diagnose and treat in interventional radiology?
Interventional radiology can treat diseases or conditions in almost any area of medicine. For example, IR specialists can break up clots inside arteries, treat varicose veins, deliver cancer treatment directly to a tumor through its own blood supply, drain blocked organs and perform biopsies.
How is interventional radiology different from diagnostic radiology?
Diagnostic radiology involves the use of various imaging techniques to diagnose disease within the body. Interventional radiology involves the use of those same imaging techniques to guide minimally invasive surgical interventions.
What types of imaging technologies are used by interventional radiologists?
Common interventional imaging technologies include fluoroscopy, computer tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.
How long will an IR procedure take?
The amount of time depends very much on the type of procedure. Preparation prior to the procedure takes approximately one hour. Post-procedure recovery time can be as little as thirty minutes to an overnight hospital admission.
Is this an outpatient procedure, or will I have to stay in the hospital?
A big advantage of most IR procedures is that they can be performed on an outpatient basis; however, there are exceptions, depending on the general health of the patient, the patient’s age and type of procedure, which may require a one or two day hospital admission.
Will I need general anesthesia?
Patients undergoing an IR procedure typically do not require general anesthesia. Most patients receive local numbing medication at the skin site where the catheter or needle enters the body. Some patients may require intravenous (IV) sedation to keep them comfortable and relaxed during the examination. Patients receiving IV sedation retain the ability to breathe on their own, are conscious and can respond to instructions.
Are these procedures painful?
During the procedure, pain is managed by the use of IV sedation and localized numbing medication at the skin site where the needle or catheter enters the body.
Is the radiation exposure safe?
Radiologists are trained to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain the needed information. Different imaging tools deliver varying levels of radiation. Computed tomography (CT) scans and studies involving the use of contrast deliver higher doses of radiation compared to X-rays. With IR procedures, the level of radiation exposure depends on the type and complexity of the procedure. In general, the risk of developing cancer from radiation is far outweighed by the benefits of the procedure.
Are outcomes with IR procedures equal to or better than those with conventional surgery?
Outcomes with interventional radiology procedures are equal to or better than outcomes for patients undergoing traditional surgery. In fact, interventional techniques have proven to be so effective and successful, they have been adapted to a variety of surgical procedures; in some cases, they have replaced traditional surgery as a treatment option.
What kind of special training do interventional radiologists have to perform such procedures?
Interventional radiologists are medical doctors who are board certified in radiology, with fellowship training in minimally invasive interventions using guided imaging. Their specialized training is certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
How can I prepare for my appointment?
Please remember to bring the following to your appointment:
- Completed pre-visit form, available online (click here)
- Referral form, if required by your health insurance
- Health insurance card(s) and identification such as a driver’s license or social security card
- List of current medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, herbs and supplements
- Any pertinent imaging studies (e.g., X-rays, CT or MRI) and/or medical records you have
- List of questions you would like to discuss with the doctor
When and how will I receive the results of my IR procedure?
Usually, the report is sent to the referring/ordering physician; however, at the end of the procedure, the interventionalist will discuss important findings with you and your family.
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