Your partner in clinical care

A Physician’s Guide to Interventional Radiology

Your partner in clinical care

Interventional radiology (IR) can be a trusted partner in the diagnosis and care of your patients—particularly those with complex or challenging medical conditions who are not responding to traditional courses of treatment. Learn when and how to collaborate with IR to help your patients explore targeted treatment options for their condition.  

An interventional radiologist can help you with diagnosis and with delivering cutting-edge treatments—particularly in difficult or challenging situations where a collaborative approach often provides the best outcome.

Interventional radiology: Your partner in clinical care

Patients come with unique challenges. Some may not respond well to treatment. Others may have recurring symptoms and want to explore other options. Through a multidisciplinary approach, an interventional radiologist can work with you to identify and provide your patients with the best targeted treatment options for their specific disease or condition.

Interventional radiology (IR) can work with you to address an array of medical problems, including cancer, vascular diseases, and men’s and women’s health conditions. An interventional radiologist can also help you with diagnosis and with delivering cutting-edge treatments—particularly in difficult or challenging situations where a collaborative approach may provide the best outcome.

Collaborating with an IR gives you and your patient access to a range of innovative, minimally invasive, targeted treatments.

Interventional radiology can be your partner in clinical care. Whether for diagnosis or treatment, ask an IR how they can help.

Why IR?

Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who use advanced imaging guidance, including X-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound to help diagnose patients and deliver targeted treatments. Interventional radiologists treat many different types of diseases in the hospital and in outpatient settings. IR can reduce the length of hospital stays, minimize potential complications and save lives.

Interventional radiologists are trained in both diagnostic radiology and the appropriate use of minimally invasive treatments. IRs are often on the front lines of clinical advances and use the latest image-guided technologies to help solve some of the toughest medical problems. Interventional radiologists collaborate with colleagues from multiple specialties to understand a patient’s unique needs, exchange ideas and find targeted solutions to patient care. To do this, IRs must not only possess in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments available, they must understand other disciplines and innovative procedures to enhance patient outcomes and support the overall treatment plan.

Interventional radiologists collaborate with colleagues from multiple specialties to understand the patient’s unique needs, exchange ideas and find targeted solutions to patient care.

 

What conditions can IR help me treat?

Interventional radiologists treat people who suffer from a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • Vascular disease: IRs treat the pain and disability associated with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) using balloon angioplasty and/or stenting. They also treat varicose veins and other forms of vascular disease, such as acute and chronic deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
  • Cancer: Chemoembolization, selective internal radiation, cryoablation, radiofrequency ablation, microwave ablation and other emerging methods (such as immunotherapy) are used to target many types of cancer, sometimes downstaging disease to allow for transplant or other curative steps. IRs help manage cancer pain and provide palliative cancer care. They also perform biopsies and chest port placement, rounding out the comprehensive, minimally invasive care of patients with cancer.
  • Women’s health conditions: Uterine fibroids, certain types of pelvic pain, and some infertility issues are treatable through IR therapies. Embolization is used to block the flow of blood to treat fibroids, adenomyosis, uterine arterio-venous malformations, and postpartum hemorrhage. Chronic pelvic pain from pelvic venous disease or congestion can also be eliminated with embolization. Infertility due to fallopian tube blockage can be treated by minimally invasive recanalization.
  • Men’s health conditions: IRs can help relieve symptoms associated with enlarged prostates using prostate artery embolization and can also treat varicoceles (enlarged veins in the scrotum) with minimally invasive embolization.

Below are some of the common conditions IRs treat and the techniques they use.

Chart of conditions and IR treatments

 

What other diseases and conditions do IRs treat?

Interventional radiologists treat many more diseases and conditions, including, biliary diseases, hypertension, kidney disease, vertebral compression fractures, and trauma and bleeding. IRs work with pediatric patients and their families. They are also skilled in developing unique or customized treatments for otherwise challenging or complex disease processes. View a complete list of the diseases and conditions that interventional radiologists treat and a glossary of IR treatments in the Patient Center. Or visit the Doctor Finder to find an IR near you to learn more.

When should I consult with an IR?

If your patient is not responding well to treatment, not a candidate for the course of treatment you offer or is simply seeking another treatment option, adding an IR to your team can help you identify the best course of treatment going forward. 

How do IRs work with me and my patients?

Ensuring the delivery of the right care at the right time from the right person is a vital aspect of clinical care. Interventional radiologists can provide assessments and working diagnoses that complement, confirm or augment your own. IRs can assist in creating a treatment plan, keeping you informed every step of the way.

Preprocedural consultations are an integral part of a successful referrer–IR relationship. The interventional radiologist will work closely with you to understand prior treatments, challenges and concerns. They will talk with your patient in an office setting to understand their issues, review their past medical and surgical history, assess the results of prior diagnostic testing, explain treatment options and answer any questions.

Will IRs offer longitudinal care?

Interventional radiologists frequently partner with primary care physicians and referring specialists to provide coordinated care before, during and after treatment. They consult in clinics and work on collaborative multidisciplinary teams to help achieve the best possible outcomes for patients.

Most IRs have hospital admitting privileges and many have clinical offices to provide patient consultations. The IR will remain an integral part of the care team every step of the way.

During postprocedural office visits, IRs will monitor the condition and assess whether further treatments are needed, communicating and coordinating with you throughout the process.

If I refer to an IR, will I “lose” my patient?

Interventional radiologists practice coordinated care, in clinics and on collaborative teams with PCPs and other specialists. Referring to an interventional radiologist doesn’t affect patient retention because you are still involved in the patient’s treatment plan.

More patients are taking an active role in their own care, sharing health care experiences and asking questions in online discussion forums, on social media and through patient advocacy groups. Often these questions are about whether minimally invasive treatment options exist and whether they are the right choice for their condition.

To help answer your patient’s questions about interventional radiology, vist the Patient FAQs page or find an IR near you.

Interventional radiologists can provide assessments and working diagnoses that complement, confirm or augment your own.

What kind of training do IRs receive?

In 2012 the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) approved a dual primary certificate in interventional radiology and diagnostic radiology. With this approval, the ABMS confirmed the skill set unique to IR that combines diagnostic imaging, image-guided procedures and periprocedural patient care.

The elevation of IR to a specialty level—with its own distinct residency program—places it at the same level as surgery, pediatrics and internal medicine in the ABMS hierarchy. Medical students and diagnostic radiology residents choose from among three pathways to become an interventional radiologist. All training pathways lead to the American Board of Radiology (ABR) IR/DR Certificate, which certifies practice in both interventional radiology and diagnostic radiology.

What’s the best way to partner with an IR?

IRs understand that availability, communication and trust are the foundations of a productive multidisciplinary team. Identifying, developing and maintaining relationships makes the referral process run smoothly. Many interventional radiology practices have established, formal referral agreements with specialist groups and other clinicians. In geographic regions or organizational scenarios where this may not be possible, simply reaching out to a local IR for conversation is a great start.

Incorporating interventional radiology into your treatment plan is possible within many practice environments, from regional or community health systems that support coordinated care to private practices and teaching hospitals. No matter the practice model, IRs work as partners with primary care physicians, hospitalists and other specialists to help produce the best possible outcomes for patients.

Interventional radiologists work as partners with primary care physicians, hospitalists and other specialists to help produce the best possible outcomes for patients.

 

What’s the best way to find an IR?

Visit SIR’s Doctor Finder—a comprehensive database of SIR-member interventional radiologists practicing in the United States and internationally—to find an interventional radiologist near you.

Find an IR