About Interventional Radiology
Interventional radiology is a medical specialty that has been called “The Surgery of the 21st Century.” Just like other medical specialists interventional radiologists are doctors who have many years of special training after medical school. This training includes radiation safety as well as the use of X-rays and other imaging techniques (radiology) that “see” inside the body without surgery. These physicians also undergo extensive training in techniques that treat diseases percutaneously (through the skin). Using radiologic images to guide their procedures, interventional radiologists insert thin tubes (catheters) and other tiny instruments through the blood vessels and other pathways of the body to treat a wide variety of conditions that once required surgery.
How small is small? Interventional radiologists make a small nick in the skin and insert their tiny instruments through the nick. But how small is small? Remarkably, most incisions are no larger that the lead tip of a pencil! No stitches are needed.
A Recognized Medical Specialty
In 1992, the American Medical Association and the Health Care Financing Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officially recognized interventional radiology as a separate medical specialty. Today, there are more than 4,000 interventional radiologists in the United States.
Interventional radiologists are highly trained. Following medical school and a year of internship interventional radiologists spend four years studying radiology. They are then eligible to take a special exam given by the American Board of Radiology. Physicians who pass this exam are called Board Certified radiologists. Once they are board certified, interventional radiologists spend an extra year in an interventional radiology fellowship training program. Doctors who attend an accredited program and successfully complete their fellowship training are then eligible after one year of practice to take a special exam for added qualifications, the Vascular and Interventional Radiology CAQ exam. This exam is given by the American Board of Radiology.
Interventional radiologists admit patients to the hospital and have the necessary clinical care skills to manage each patient’s care. Interventional radiologists work closely with a patient’s primary care or other physician to be sure the patient receives the best possible care.
Some advantages of interventional radiology:
- Risk, pain, and recovery time are significantly reduced in many cases.
- Many procedures can be performed without an overnight stay in the hospital.
- General anesthesia is usually not required.
- Procedures are often less expensive than the surgical alternatives