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What is interventional radiology?

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Quick Answer

Interventional radiology refers to the branch of medical science involving image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders that are less invasive than surgery, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Doctors design interventional radiology procedures to reduce risks to patients while improving outcomes.

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Interventional radiology procedures include angiography, balloon angioplasty, biliary stenting, embolization and needle biopsies, according to the Society of Interventional Radiology. Angiography scans use X-rays to study blood vessel problems using a contrast agent injected into a person's bloodstream. Balloon angioplasty procedures open blocked blood vessels by inflating a small balloon within the blood vessel. Biliary stenting uses a small mesh tube to open bile ducts in the liver. Embolization delivers clotting agents directly to an area that is bleeding internally. Needle biopsies test for cancers in various organs with very small needles instead of surgery.

Interventional radiologists are specialists with at least five years of residency training after graduation from medical school. These types of doctors are accredited by the American Board of Radiology, according to the Radiological Society of North America. As of November 2014, cardiovascular-interventional technologists must be accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and complete a two-year certificate at an appropriate educational institution. A technologist readies the equipment and supplies needed to perform interventional radiology procedures, and a technologist also fixes equipment and assists doctors with procedures when needed.

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