What is Interventional Radiology and Why Should You Care?


Most of us are familiar with the terms radiology and radiologist, you know those folks who can see you from the inside out! But what do you know about interventional radiology? You might be thinking “Aren’t they the same thing?” Well, no, they aren’t. The fact is that radiologists and interventional radiologists differ from one another quite a bit. A radiologist interprets images to determine how the body is functioning and to discover if there is anything wrong. Alternatively, an interventional radiologist performs minimally invasive procedures inside the body and treats disease.

“Our team here at Carson Tahoe realizes that not many people know much about interventional radiology because it’s a newer field of medicine,” says Erik Maki, MD, Interventional Radiologist on staff at Carson Tahoe Health. “It is our responsibility as medical providers to educate the community about the types of services we provide. We believe that patients who are informed do much better in their recovery process.”

What is interventional radiology?

Interventional radiology is a medical sub-specialty of radiology, which is why many believe it’s the same. In traditional radiology, a specially trained physician interprets or “reads” medical images from various modalities and then produces a report of their findings and diagnosis. Interventional Radiology encompasses the same duties as in traditional radiology and includes minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to both diagnose and treat diseases in various body parts and systems. The idea behind interventional radiology is to use the least invasive techniques available to minimize the risk of open surgery while at the same time improving the patient’s overall health outcomes.

What is an interventional radiologist?

An interventional radiologist is a physician who is trained in radiology and interventional therapy. He or she is able to see inside a patient’s body and treat disease by using images (x-rays, MRIs scans, fluoroscopy, CT scans, and ultrasounds) to guide thin plastic tubes (catheters) and instruments to an exact area where the procedure or treatment needs to be performed.

What is the process for interventional radiology procedures?

Interventional radiology procedures are done under local anesthesia or conscious sedation. Once you’ve been sedated the interventional radiologist will make a small incision for a needle to guide a thin wire and catheter through a blood vessel to reach and treat the desired area.

What can be treated using interventional radiology?

Areas of the body that can be treated with interventional radiology include, but are not limited to: abdomen, central nervous system, chest, heart and vascular, musculoskeletal, other organs, and soft tissues. Some conditions that are treatable with interventional radiology techniques are cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, uterine fibroids, blood vessel diseases, varicose veins, etc.

“A few of the benefits interventional radiology offers patients include reduced risks, less pain, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recovery time,” said Maki “Many patients are able to leave the hospital the same day as their procedure, depending on the acuity of the patient and their treatment..”

Do I need a referral from my doctor?

“Patients can self-refer but are usually referred to the clinic for a consultation by their primary care providers or specialists,” says Donna Hunter, Carson Tahoe IR Clinic Supervisor. “Any physician requesting a consult would send the referral information to Carson Tahoe’s centralized scheduling who then contacts the patient and sets up an appointment. Patients who would like to self-refer can also contact centralized scheduling for a consult.”

Where do I go for an Interventional Radiology procedure?

Carson Tahoe Health has an Interventional Radiology Clinic at Great Basin Imaging on the third floor of the Eagle Medical Building. Here, the interventional radiologists offer a variety of minimally invasive options and treat diseases in nearly every organ system.

To schedule an appointment with Carson Tahoe Interventional Radiology Clinic, call (775) 445-5500.

To talk to an IR Clinic nurse for questions about the process, call at (775) 445-7145.