By Vanesa Brashier, email@example.com
If you haven’t heard of interventional radiology, you are not alone. This expanding medical specialty using minimally-invasive procedures to treat patients rather than invasive surgeries is a growing field in medicine, and now Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center is offering interventional radiology (IR) through its new partnership with Spring, Texas-based Imaging Interventionalists.
“Many people who aren’t in the medical field don’t know about interventional radiology. They have heard about diagnostic radiology, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and mammograms. There are physicians who interpret and make value diagnoses based on these imaging systems. Interventional radiology is quite different,” said Dr. David Chaio, M.D., M.P.H, with Imaging Interventionalists.
Instead of making diagnoses based on imaging, IR doctors and technicians use the imaging to perform procedures such as injections into the spine for pain management and biopsies of suspected tumors.
“It’s a new field of medicine. To give you an example of its benefit, 50 years ago, to diagnose lung cancer, an X-ray would be taken and then a surgeon would have to go into the lung, dig around and take out the mass. Then the mass would be sent off to a pathologist for testing. That surgical procedure would allow cancer cells to spread. Also, it was a bigger surgery that required anesthesia and hospitalization for several days,” Chaio said.
In that same scenario today, IR doctors use a needle through a tiny puncture wound in the body to extract a small portion of the tumor for testing, so there is less chance of seeding that can spread the cancer, and the patient has no overnight stays in the hospital.
“IR has changed things that used to require big surgeries into more minimally-invasive procedures with a lower mortality risk,” Chaio said. “A surgeon might still go the route of removing the tumor surgically, but before IR, they wouldn’t know ahead of time if the tumor was cancerous. The masses might have been benign but the patient was exposed to risk and infection.”
In addition to testing cells for cancer, IR doctors also help in the treatment of abscesses that will not heal through the traditional use of antibiotics and pain in the joints and spine from injury and arthritis, and the elimination of unsightly and painful varicose veins.
“We do pain procedures that avoid narcotics, which are very addictive and have harmful side-effects such as nausea and constipation. For instance, if someone has back pain, we can do a variety of injections along the spine. We also can do perform nerve ablations over a period of time to deaden the nerve,” Chaio said. “For patients with arthritis, we can supplement the joint fluid in their knees with an injection. There are a variety of procedures we perform that help a patient avoid surgery in a good number of people.”
Another benefit is the financial savings for patients who are able to avoid undergoing a costly surgery. The vast majority of the procedures performed by Chaio are a couple hundred dollars.
“For people with acute pain, it might be just a couple of injections so their bodies can recover. Other people might need maintenance injections, like every several months or years depending on their medical need,” he said.
Procedures can be arranged in two ways – through a patient’s primary care provider, who will provide a referral, or through the hospital’s clinic, which is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The direct number to the hospital clinic is 936-336-9175.