At Washington Hospital, community physicians and specialists team up to
offer lower risk, image-guided treatment
For many years, patients and the medical community have looked to surgery
as the best way to treat many medical conditions. For example, surgery
has often been the treatment of choice for spinal compression fractures,
uterine fibroids, varicose veins, aneurysms, blood clots in the lungs
and legs, some cancers, and many other problems.
In some cases, traditional surgery continues to be the treatment of choice.
However, since the 1960s, a little-known, innovative medical specialty
called Interventional Radiology (IR) has evolved as an alternative to
open surgery. A less invasive treatment approach than traditional surgery,
IR offers other distinct benefits, including lower risk, less pain and
a shorter recovery time.
Today, some IR-pioneered procedures, such as angioplasty and stenting to
open clogged arteries, have become well known and have been adopted by
other specialties as the standard of care for some conditions. Many other
leading edge IR treatments are also available, with more being developed
At Washington Hospital, the growing Interventional Radiology Program has
evolved with the help of modern technologies. The Hospital now offers
many minimally invasive interventions that once required open surgery.
To perform a procedure, the IR specialist gains access to the target organ
by inserting a tiny catheter or miniature instruments through the skin
without making an incision. Using x-ray or ultrasound imaging guidance,
the physician can then reach the internal site of a problem with these
small devices and deliver the necessary targeted therapies.
“IR is ‘cutting edge’ medicine without the cutting,”
said Washington Hospital board-certified interventional radiologist Bruce
Lin, MD. “Many of these diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are
now considered first-line treatments for specific conditions. They often
result in improved outcomes, less discomfort, lower complication rates,
and faster recovery and are usually more cost effective. In today’s
health care, these are important options for doctors and patients to consider.”
Interventional Radiology is a recognized medical specialty by the American
Board of Medical Specialties. Interventional radiologists are board-certified
physicians with additional advanced training in a broad spectrum of minimally
invasive procedures in multiple organ systems.
“Because interventional radiologists are first trained in diagnostic
radiology, they use imaging to understand, visualize and diagnose the
full scope of the disease’s pathology and to map out the procedure
tailored to the individual patient,” says the website of the Society
of Interventional Radiology (SIR). “Then during the procedure, they
image as they go, literally watching and guiding their catheter to the
site of the problem.”
“At Washington Hospital, we work with community physicians to improve
patient care and outcomes,” explained Dr. Lin. “Interventional
radiologists offer in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments
available and are experts at providing advanced imaging. They use their
diagnostic expertise to plan and develop optimal interventional treatment
When doctors partner with IR specialists at Washington Hospital, patient
care is streamlined through a faster, more efficient image evaluation
and targeted treatment process. Areas of IR treatment performed include
problems with arteries, veins and cancer or cancer-related conditions,
as well as spine or pain management, women’s health, kidney dialysis
access, and gastrointestinal, genitourinary or liver-related conditions.
According to SIR, the concept of IR was first used in the 1960s to open
a blocked artery in an 82-year-old woman, saving her gangrenous left foot.
Later, IR procedures were developed that revolutionized the practice of
Some more recent advancements in IR include:
- Treatments for back pain, vein problems and uterine fibroids
- Nonsurgical destruction of a tumor or tumors without harming surrounding tissue
- Blocking a blood vessel to stop hemorrhaging or cut off the blood supply
to a tumor
- Dissolving dangerous clots in blood vessels
- Widening or opening blocked or partially blocked arteries supplying blood
to the head and neck to prevent stroke.
To learn more about Interventional Radiology at Washington Hospital, go
to www.whhs.com. For more information about the medical specialty of Interventional
Radiology, visit www.sirweb.org.