A doctor who specializes in using medical imaging to diagnose and treat diseases throughout the body. Interventional radiologists use x-rays, CT, ultrasound, MRI, and other imaging technologies to direct interventional instruments such as needles and catheters (very narrow hollow tubes) to perform minimally invasive surgeries without large incisions. Compared with traditional surgery, these procedures minimize trauma to the patient, resulting in less pain, reduced rates of infection, and shorter hospital stays.
One of the most common procedures an interventional radiologist performs is angiography, in which a catheter is threaded into a coronary, carotid, or cerebral artery (arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle and brain) and injects a dye that shows up on x-rays. These images can aid the diagnosis of such conditions as atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), vascular trauma (injury to blood vessels), and aneurysm (abnormal swelling of blood vessels). Another common procedure, angioplasty, is used to treat atherosclerosis. A catheter with a balloon at the tip is inserted into a blood vessel in the arm or groin and threaded to a targeted site in an artery. The doctor inflates the balloon, which pushes the atherosclerotic plaque against the artery wall and widens the artery to restore blood flow.