Veterinary medicine is constantly advancing and improving, often taking cues from human medicine. This is certainly the case in subject of interventional radiology, which is the use of radiology to provide minimally invasive therapeutic alternatives to surgery.
Radiology is the field of study that covers the use of imaging to diagnose and treat illness. The most familiar member of the radiology group is the good old radiograph, or X-ray, which is helpful in diagnosing a myriad of conditions ranging from broken bones to fluid in the chest or abdomen. Other diagnostic tools in the radiology family include ultrasound, CT scans, and MRIs.
The subject of today’s blog, interventional radiology, uses modern imaging techniques (like ultrasounds and fluoroscopy) to access vessels and other structures in order to deliver therapeutic results. In other words, we are able to use X-ray technology to fix your pet! I’ll give you some examples in a minute, but first, it will be helpful to discuss how these things are done.
Most commonly in veterinary interventional radiology, fluoroscopy is used to visualize the target area. Fluoroscopy uses X-rays to show real-time moving images of the internal structures that need to be repaired. Fluoroscopy is to a single X-ray image what a movie is to a single picture. Make sense?
When the X-ray “video camera” is pointed at a body part, veterinarians can actually see real-time images, allowing them to perform repairs without making large incisions to see the organ or body part.
The pros of interventional radiology are numerous:
- Minimally invasive
- Decreased patient discomfort
- Shorter anesthesia times
- Decreased hospital stays
- Decreased complications
- Smaller incisions
The downside of interventional radiology is that not everyone can do it. The skill and equipment required to provide this service limits its use to mostly referral and specialty practices. General practitioners simply won’t have the technical expertise in most cases.
The field of interventional radiology in veterinary medicine is rapidly expanding, but here are some of the most common uses of it now:
- Tracheal stenting in cases of tracheal collapse.
- Percutaneous Transarterial Ebolisation and Chemoembolisation (TACE) to control tumor growth, most commonly used in non-surgical liver tumors.
- Palliative stenting for obstructive masses, either benign or malignant. This includes tumors or masses in the urinary tract and gastrointestinal tract as well as ureteral stones and strictures.
- Nutritional reasons, such as the placement of feeding tubes in the small intestine.
The benefits of interventional radiology in veterinary medicine are promising and are growing every year. If your pet has a condition that might be served by interventional radiology, be sure to speak to your veterinarian about how to find a doctor who performs it in your area.