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What is Vascular & Interventional Radiology?

Vascular and interventional radiology, sometimes just called interventional radiology or abbreviated “VIR,” is a type of minimally invasive treatment done using only needles or catheters (tubes) and very tiny incisions in the body. Imaging, such as x-rays or ultrasound, is done from outside the body and used to guide the surgeon. Because the incisions are so small, this type of surgery offers less risk, less pain, and a faster recovery time to the patient.

Interventional radiology was first developed in the 1960s to treat blocked arteries, as an alternative to open bypass surgery. The technique was originally used only on blood vessels, which is where the word ‘vascular’ in the name comes from. These days it is still often used to treat blood vessel disorders, but also many other types of problems. Interventional radiology may be used to perform, among others:
  • Vascular treatments, such as the placement of stents or balloon angioplasty
  • Minimally invasive cancer treatments, such as biopsies, tumor ablation, or chemoembolization (delivering chemotherapy directly to a tumor via a catheter)
  • Uterine fibroid embolization
  • Varicose vein ablation

The device used for imaging during the surgery may be x-ray, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or CT scan. Imaging allows the surgeon to see exactly what is happening without having to cut into a patient. Not only is recovery easier without major surgery, but outcomes are better with the precise detail that modern imaging can offer.
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