Over the last few decades, technological advancements have brought about a remarkable transformation in healthcare delivery making it more precise, almost painless, requiring reduced hospital stays and with enhanced clinical outcomes. Minimally invasive radiology or interventional radiology (IR) is an emerging and appealing specialty in medicine empowering doctors to conduct surgical procedures to diagnose, treat and cure several conditions in a minimally invasive manner. The entire process uses the advanced forms of medical imaging like Digital Radiography, Ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) to guide needles, fine catheter tubes or wires inside the body. This helps in avoiding large incisions on the body and the use of general anaesthesia.
An interventional radiologist is known to possess high skills in diagnostic image interpretation and the manipulation of surgical tools to manoeuvre through the body under the guidance of images. Interventional radiology happens to be extremely beneficial for both the IR’s and the patients in various ways. It emphasises on the blood vessels and lymphatic system and can be used to treat various conditions, starting from cancer to infertility. While for IR’s, it gives enhanced effectiveness by providing high visibility throughout a procedure increasing its accuracy, for patients, it comes with an array of advantages.
Advantages of interventional or minimally invasive radiology
Enhanced patient outcomes: Minimally invasive or interventional radiology enhances the precision and accuracy of a diagnosis procedure, thereby improving the prognosis and in turn, significantly improving the patient outcome through targeted treatment.
Decreased risks: When minimally invasive or interventional radiology is used, it ensures far lesser blood loss and a considerably reduced risk of infection and other open surgery related complications as compared to conventional procedures. Thus, patients are always on an upper hand in terms of bleeding and infection when interventional radiology is used. Besides, it comes as a bliss for patients who are at higher risk from anaesthesia as the IR requires only local anaesthesia or use of very moderate sedation. Also, as the guidance to the IR’s is more precise, there are least chances of any sort of damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.
No or minimal hospital stays: Coming as a significant benefit for patients, interventional radiology-based procedures do not require the patients to stay in hospitals for a prolonged duration following a surgery. While in some cases, the patient can walk out of the hospital the following day, in some cases, it is performed on an outpatient basis and the patient is discharged on the same day. This prevents the risk of hospital induced infections.
Lower costs: Minimal hospital stays reduce the treatment cost significantly compared to prolonged duration of hospital stays. Also, minimally invasive procedures lead to least post procedural complications, thereby curbing the expenses to a greater extent compared to conventional procedures.
Less pain: IR procedures involve minimal and almost no pain as these are conducted through small incisions and no stitches, staples and large bandages are required. Also, a local anaesthesia is used, hence the pain experienced during or following the procedure is moderate.
Faster recovery: Being minimally invasive, IR procedures require very less recovery time and the patients are able to resume normal activities and return to their daily life flow much quicker compared to conventional surgeries.
The most common interventional radiology procedures include angiography, angioplasty, embolization, insertion of gastrostomy tubes, intravascular ultrasound, stent placement, foreign body removal, needle biopsy, insertion of IVC filters, injection of clot dissolving medicines, catheter insertion, cancer treatment and more. Interventional radiology is considered to be one of the aspects of adding to the bright future of healthcare delivery, thereby significantly transforming healthcare in terms of improved patient experience and enhanced clinical outcome for patients.
Dr Venkatesh H A, Consultant Endovascular and Interventional Radiologist, HCG Suchirayu Hospital, Hubli