Most people are familiar with basic radiology, such as the use of x-rays to diagnose broken bones. Radiology, however, isn’t only about creating images of the inside of the body. Interventional radiology is a subspecialty of radiology that uses radiological images along with minimally invasive procedures to treat a huge range of health conditions.
Dr. Linda Hughes of North Broward Radiologists is a leading South Florida interventional radiologist, who brings groundbreaking interventional radiology procedures to a number of medical specialties, including cardiology and oncology.
Dr. Hughes presented a panel discussion on cardiology and radiology at the 4th Cutting-Edge Understanding Research and Education (CURE) Symposium at Palm Beach State College in Boca Raton on April 25. At the CURE Symposium, Dr. Hughes discussed the latest medical advances in interventional radiology, which make surgery less invasive, less painful, and easier to recover from.
The use of interventional radiology techniques greatly improves treatment options, in some cases making conditions that used to require major surgery into conditions that can be treated on an outpatient basis. The use of x-rays, fluoroscopy, computed tomography (CT), and ultrasound to guide interventional procedures allows doctors to be accurate and minimize some of the risks that can occur when a patient has to undergo major surgery.
The Intersection of Radiology and Cardiology
Radiology and cardiology have long been linked. Angiography traces its roots back to the 1930s and has allowed countless cardiology patients to avoid open-heart surgery. In cardiovascular radiology, medical imaging is used to diagnose issues with the heart and circulatory system. Types of medical imaging used in cardiovascular radiology include x-rays, CT, positron emission tomography (PET), and magnetic resonance (MR).
Cardiovascular interventional radiology is used in angioplasty, which treats blockages in coronary arteries, and to help guide placement of stents. It can also be used in a treatment called radiofrequency ablation, which treats heart rhythm abnormalities. Many conditions that used to require major surgery can be treated much less invasively, and cardiovascular radiology procedures are far less stressful for patients. But cardiology isn’t the only specialty that benefits from interventional radiology techniques.
Interventional Radiology for Uterine Fibroids
Dr. Hughes is a leader in using interventional radiology for treating uterine fibroids. These non-cancerous uterine growths are very common and can cause problems like heavy bleeding, back or leg pain, or bladder pressure. With interventional radiology, physicians like Dr. Hughes are able to make a tiny incision in the patient’s groin and thread a catheter into the femoral artery. The catheter is then guided to the uterine arteries that supply the fibroids. Polyvinyl particles are released through the catheter, blocking blood flow to fibroids and “starving” them out. All this can be done without general anesthesia, and typically only requires an overnight stay in the hospital.
Interventional radiology helps minimize time patients have to spend in the hospital.
Treating Cancer With Interventional Radiology
Most cancer patients will work with an interventional radiologist at some point during their cancer treatments. In fact, depending on the type of cancer, an interventional radiologist may be a primary care team member. Interventional radiology is used for a variety of procedures, including placements of catheters and ports for chemotherapy and radio frequency ablation of tumors.
A procedure called transarterial chemoembolization, or TACE, treats liver tumors precisely by mapping the blood vessels leading to the tumor, and then guiding a catheter and chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor. Blood supply to the tumor can also be cut off, as is done when treating uterine fibroids. Hot and cold ablation of tumors allow doctors to directly attack tumors and burn or freeze them out. Some kidney cancers, liver tumors, and bone lesions can be treated with thermal ablation.
Minimally Invasive Procedures to Improve Health Outcomes
Interventional radiology is a fast growing subspecialty of radiology that allows specialists like Dr. Hughes to perform highly effective treatments for a variety of health conditions without major surgery and the risks that go along with it (such as risks from general anesthesia). With each passing year, new uses for interventional radiology are developed, helping patients get effective treatment with much less recovery time and helping to keep treatment costs under control.
A number of specialties, including cardiology and oncology employ interventional radiology with the assistance of radiology specialists like Dr. Hughes and the other physicians of North Broward Radiologists (NBR). For some conditions, interventional radiology has been nothing short of revolutionary, and in the future, interventional radiology may be used in ways we can only imagine now.
Since 1969, the American Board of Radiology-certified physicians of North Broward Radiologists have provided professional diagnostic and interventional radiology services in and around Broward County. Most NBR radiologists have completed subspecialty fellowships, including fellowships in neuroradiology, pediatric imaging, PET imaging, ultrasound, and interventional radiology, and many have worked in the academic staffs of major educational institutions. If you would like to know more about the radiology services provided by NBR, we invite you to call us at 954-839-8080.