What is Vascular Interventional Radiology?
Vascular interventional radiology (VIR) procedures are advances in medicine that often replace open surgical procedures. VIR endovascular experts specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments performed using imaging guidance techniques to “see” inside the body. Imaging techniques allow them to guide narrow tubes (catheters) and other micro instruments remotely through the blood vessels and other pathways of the body to the site of a problem. These image guided techniques allow them to treat a variety of medical disorders without surgery.
VIR procedures are generally easier for the patient because they involve no large incisions, less risk, less pain and shorter recovery times. Often with interventional procedures surgery can be avoided. In fact, VIR are able to treat some disorders for which there is no surgical alternative. VIR is one of the most dynamic medical fields today as these physicians adapt a technique proven to work for one problem and find a way to apply it to another. These minimally invasive techniques allow our team to treat most patients outside of a hospital setting in the comfort of an office-based facility.
VIR – Best Kept Secret in Medicine
According to a national survey, only three percent of Americans are aware of vascular interventional radiologist (Riley Research Associates, 2001). Today, minimally invasive treatments are available for many diseases, but few patients know to ask about them, or to seek out a second opinion from a vascular interventional radiologist. Historically, vascular interventional radiologists have been the “specialist’s specialist,” and patients didn’t have direct contact with this specialty. Because surgery was the only treatment available for many years, many primary care physicians still refer their patients for surgery. Now that modern, minimally invasive treatments are available for many diseases, it makes sense to explore less invasive options first before progressing to major surgery. Dr. Azher Iqbal specializes in minimally invasive treatment.
VIR vs Major Surgery
Vascular Interventional Radiologists use sophisticated, state-of-the-art X-ray and other imaging devices. This minimally invasive approach uses a puncture to introduce micro instruments through tiny access tubes (catheters) remotely and using an image guided technique, the problem is fixed from within the body. These tools enter the body through openings in the skin as small as the tip of a pencil. These advanced procedures are performed at our office-based facility as outpatient, without the use of general anesthesia and patients are discharged home the same day.
Traditional surgery involves making an incision (a cut) to open up an area of the body, looking inside to determine what is wrong, fixing it and closing the incision with stitches, staples, tape or other means. These treatments involve general anesthesia, prolonged hospitalization, increased risk of infection, and other medical complications.
Advantages of Interventional Radiology
The following are some key advantages to vascular interventional radiology procedures that you should consider when you are contemplating your treatment options.
- Most procedures can be performed in our outpatient facility.
- General anesthesia is not required.
- Pain and recovery time are significantly reduced.
- There is less risk of infection.
- The patient is often back to normal routine within days of procedure.
- There is little or no incision.
- The procedures are often less expensive than surgery or other alternatives.
- Greater comfort and convenience to the patient.
The visualization of internal organs can be done using a complementary technique called fluoroscopy. Contrast can be injected to aid visualization of blood vessels. This allows a physician to see the images more clearly on a fluorescent screen.
In vascular interventional radiology, live fluoroscopy provides guidance for the placement of various instruments, such as angioplasty balloons, which are placed in the appropriate areas under real time.
Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a method of obtaining images from inside the human body through the use of high-frequency sound waves. The reflected sound wave echoes are recorded and displayed as a real-time visual image. No ionizing radiation (x-ray) is involved in ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound lets the physician see inside the body without using radiation, and is commonly used as the first method to evaluate for vascular blockages or aneurysms. It also provides a robust guidance tool for many vascular interventional radiology procedures.
Computed Tomography (CT)
A CT scan, sometimes referred to as a CAT scan, is a computer-assisted, X-ray imaging technique that allows radiologists to see detailed pictures of various parts of your body without surgery. While the patient lies on the examination table, small amounts of X-rays are projected through a specific region of the body.
This series of pictures is processed through a computer, which converts the information from the scan into images for the radiologist to study. This technique can be used to access internal organs safely through the skin for a variety of procedures.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
In this non-invasive procedure, magnets and radio waves interact to produce a detailed picture of the soft tissue inside your body. The resulting images help diagnose abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord, head, chest, heart, abdomen, extremities and other body systems. This examination, which does not involve X-ray radiation, requires virtually no preparation and may help diagnose problems that are difficult or impossible to detect with other imaging methods.