written by

Greg Martin, MD

Dr. Gregory Martin is a vascular and interventional radiologist in Denver, CO

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August 13, 2019

What is Interventional Radiology?

Radiology is a specialty of medicine where images are read or interpreted in order to diagnose and treat various medical issues. X-Ray being one of the more common imaging methodologies, but this can also include MRI, CAT, PET and Ultrasounds. All of these take pictures inside the body and are common (and essential!) diagnostic tools.

These images are read by Radiologists, medical doctors trained to read and interpret images. Radiologists work with other doctors to provide care based on findings from the images. Almost every sector of health care, including surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, cancer-care, trauma-response, emergency medicine, infectious disease and more, utilize the skills of radiologists to diagnose and treat their patients.

In the past, when something in the body was identified as causing a health issue (a tumor, for example), doctors would perform “open surgery.” Open surgery is when a surgeon makes an incision, typically 3-4 inches or larger, depending on the procedure, and then performs surgery through that incision. Despite open surgery being medically necessary and valuable, there are more risks involved during and after such procedures. Fortunately, open surgery is becoming less common, however, due to advances in minimally invasive procedures.

Minimally invasive procedures are when a procedure can be performed through a small incision, or in some cases, no incision at all. Because there is less open area, these procedures offer a lower risk of infection, shorter recovery times and equally successful outcomes to open surgery. Because of the benefits and reduced risks, when the choice between an open or minimally invasive procedure is available, most medical professionals will recommend the treatment that heals more quickly and has fewer complications. Interventional Radiologists use imaging technology for minimally invasive procedures, treating patients without open surgery.

This is Interventional Radiology (IR).

Also referred to as Vascular and Interventional Radiology, IR was founded in the early 1960s by Charles Dotter, MD, the inventor of angioplasty and the catheter-delivered stent. Until recently, IR was a sub-specialty of Radiology, but is now typically considered its own specialty.