Interventional radiology (IR) refers to a range of techniques which rely on the use of radiological image guidance to precisely target therapy. These techniques include X-ray, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Most IR treatments are minimally invasive alternatives to open and laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. As many IR procedures start with passing a needle through the skin to the target it is sometimes known as pinhole surgery.
The essential skills of an interventional radiologist are in diagnostic image interpretation, the manipulation of needles and the use of fine catheter tubes and wires to navigate around the body under imaging control. Interventional radiologists are doctors who are trained in radiology and interventional therapy.
Interventional therapy encompasses any procedure that is invasive, usually involving the insertion of a needle, cannula (tube), catheter or wire into the patient for diagnosis and/or treatment. Procedures include angioplasty (insertion of a balloon into a vein or artery to widen it and improve circulation), stenting (insertion of a tube to keep an artery or a vein open) and biopsies, eg lung, breast, renal, liver, bone etc.
Well recognised advantages of these minimally invasive techniques include reduced risks, shorter hospital stays, lower costs, greater comfort and quicker convalescence and return to work. The effectiveness of treatment is often equal to and sometimes better than with traditional treatments.