Interventional radiology (IR) is a subspecialty of radiology where minimally invasive procedures are performed using imaging guidance, often as an alternative to surgery. Doctors working in this field have specialized in general radiology and then gained further experience with interventional techniques. Many doctors also complete formal fellowship training in IR.
Multiple imaging modalities can be used to perform these procedures, most commonly xray, ultrasound and CT. IR doctors are also well suited to report on imaging studies focusing on the blood vessels (CT/MR angiography) as well as cases that may benefit from IR treatment.
IR is a relatively new specialty when compared to traditional specialties such as surgery and general medicine but is evolving at a rapid pace and is responsible for numerous innovations such as angioplasty, stent insertion and tumour embolization. In addition, the procedures are all performed using the latest imaging equipment as well as innovative medical devices and catheters.
Typical advantages include minimal access (e.g. small nick in the skin), no need for general anaesthetic, quicker recovery and fewer complications. An important concept with IR is that the specialty thrives on a multi-disciplinary or teamwork approach to healthcare where treatment decisions are made following close communication with other medical specialists.
Interventional oncology is an emerging subspecialty within IR where procedures are performed to treat and palliate cancer in many different organs of the body. Collaboration with the referring oncologist is crucial for optimal outcome. Examples include: radioembolization for liver cancer, stent insertion for biliary malignancy and targeted ablation procedures for small tumours in the lung, liver and kidneys.