Mention the term “radiologist” to the average person and they think of the individual who performs diagnostic imaging tests, like mammograms and MRIs. Only a small percentage of the public understands that a radiologist is actually a highly specialized medical doctor who reads and interprets the images generated from these medical imaging tests, and then provides a diagnosis.
Today, there is a new subspecialty within radiology that is even less understood by the general public: Interventional radiology (IR). These doctors require even more training than their colleagues because they are responsible for treating patients as much as they are for diagnosing them.
“Interventional radiology is one of the most exciting, dynamic fields in medicine today,” says Aaron Baxter, MD, FRCPC, a vascular and interventional radiologist with Synergy Radiology Associates. “Diseases and health conditions that once required open surgery, or caused the patient to be on a lifelong medication regimen, can now be treated far less invasively, much less expensively, and with less risk and downtime for the patient.”
Dr. Baxter explains that IR procedures are now available for every organ system within the human body, and most do not require an overnight hospital stay. The training required to perform these procedures is among the most extensive in medicine; the typical education needed for an interventional radiology fellowship certification is thirteen years.
The interventional radiologist uses an imaging modality—like CT, x-ray or ultrasound—to guide a catheter into a blood vessel in the patient’s leg or arm, through the body’s blood vessels, and precisely to the site of the problem. Once there, they employ an assortment of techniques to treat the condition.
Synergy Interventional Radiologists perform a wide variety of IR procedures on a regular basis. They range from the routine—the placement of IVC filters to prevent blood clots from reaching the lungs or the creation of a arteriovenous fistulas for dialysis patients, to the more complex such as removing a blockage from repairing a spine fracture to treating cancer.
One of the IR procedures that become popular in recent years is called uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE. Many women with severe menstrual symptoms caused by fibroids within their uterus are told that hysterectomy is their only option. But a UFE procedure can treat the fibroids without removing the uterus. It’s a highly effective procedure with a lower risk of the complications or long-term health issues associated with surgical hysterectomy. Studies show that more than 90% of women who undergo UFE have demonstrated a high level of satisfaction and a significant improvement of quality of life, even over the long term.1,2
Men with enlarged prostate now also an IR solution. Prostate artery embolization is a new and minimally invasive procedure to treat benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that causes an overactive bladder and can even affect sexual performance. During the procedure, the interventional radiologist “embolizes” or cuts off some of the blood supply to the prostate gland. This causes the gland to shrink back to its normal size and reduces the symptoms associated with BPH.
IR is ideally suited to treat vascular problems, and for those with serious vascular disease, IR can help prevent an amputation. One in three people over the age of 50 with diabetes has PAD and they are at a significant risk for leg amputation. More than 16,000 amputations were performed in Texas last year and this number is projected to double by 2050 due to increasing rates of diabetes and vascular disease.3 Dr. Baxter and his team believe that they can reduce the number of amputations significantly with a combination of early PAD detection and minimally invasive treatment.
“We want patients and their doctors to know they have options,” Dr. Baxter adds. “When people learn that they can achieve the same outcome without going under the knife, we believe they will chose the less invasive option.”
For more information on the interventional radiology treatments offered at Synergy Radiology Associates, please call (713) 358-0600 or visit synergyvascular.org/services.
- Smith WJ, Upton E, Shuster EJ, Klein AJ, Schwartz ML. Patient satisfaction and disease specific quality of life after uterine artery embolization. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2004;190(6):1697–1703.
- Scheurig-Muenkler C, Koesters C, Powerski MJ, Grieser C, Froeling V, Kroencke TJ. Clinical long-term outcome after uterine artery embolization: sustained symptom control and improvement of quality of life. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2013;24(6):765–771
- Ziegler-Graham K, MacKenzie EJ, Ephraim PL, Travison TG, Brookmeyer R. Estimating the Prevalence of Limb Loss in the United States: 2005 to 2050. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation2008;89(3):422-9