What is interventional radiology?
Interventional radiology is a medical specialty in which its trained physicians perform minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat various diseases. Interventional radiologists are trained to use image-guided technology such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to place a catheter inside the body and treat patients non-surgically. As an alternative to open surgery, interventional radiology procedures may reduce risk, pain and recovery time for patients.
Several interventional radiology procedures can be used to treat cancer patients. For example, transarterial chemoembolization can cut off the blood supply to a tumor, while radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) damage the cancerous tissue itself.
Experienced care team
Our interventional radiology team provides minimally-invasive treatments, performs procedures to manage pain and complications, performs biopsies, and alleviates a variety of symptoms that can occur during cancer treatment.
Interventional radiology can be used in the management of metastatic disease from cancers such as colorectal, breast, gallbladder, pancreas, lung, esophageal, stomach, melanoma and sarcomas. In these cases, we can perform Yttrium-90 radioembolization and chemoembolization for liver metastases. We can also perform ablation for isolated metastases to the liver, lung, adrenal gland, bone, kidney and other soft tissues.
Personalized treatment approach
Our priority is to treat you with the most appropriate, least invasive treatments available for your cancer type. Below are some of the most common interventional radiology procedures we perform. Most procedures are done on an outpatient basis or during a short hospital stay.
- Tumor ablation procedures: These minimally invasive treatments destroy tissue using extreme temperatures. Ablation may be used to treat tumors or alleviate symptoms. Examples of ablation procedures we perform are radiofrequency ablation and microwave ablation.
- Liver-directed therapies: We can deliver targeted treatment directly to liver tumors, sparing nearby healthy tissue and reducing some side effects. Some therapies we use to treat liver tumors include Yttrium-90 radioembolization and chemoembolization.
- Vascular work: Our team uses minimally invasive techniques to place stents, stop bleeding and block the flow of blood to or from tumor tissue to support chemotherapy and radiation treatment response.
- Drainage catheters: Fluid retention is a common side effect of some types of cancer. Catheters are used to drain excess fluid and relieve uncomfortable symptoms.
- Port and PICC Line Placement: Many patients are given temporary ports and PICC lines to minimize the number of needle pricks during chemotherapy treatment or diagnostic blood work.
- Bone and joint pain management: A variety of bone and joint injections, nerve blocks and fracture management techniques provide relief from pain.
Managing side effects
Interventional radiology procedures reduce side effects typically associated with traditional cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. But side effects, such as fatigue and pain, may occur. Our integrative oncology services can help you manage any side effects that you experience during treatment. We offer nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management, oncology rehabilitation, mind-body medicine, spiritual support and other services.
Video: Radiologists & Interventional RadiologistsDr. Timothy McCay explains what radiologists and interventional radiologists are. He discusses some of the diagnostic imaging tests radiologists analyze and procedures interventional radiologists perform.
Interventional radiology for metastatic bile duct cancer to the liver
In some cases, bile duct cancer becomes advanced and metastasizes (spreads) to the liver. Our Interventional Radiology Program offers advanced treatments and procedures which are liver-directed or tumor-directed, including the following:
TheraSphere: This innovative treatment uses tiny beads called microspheres to deliver radiation directly to tumors in the liver. Measuring one-third the diameter of a human hair, the tiny microspheres are embedded with a radioactive element to help kill cancer cells.
The radiation therapy is delivered to a tumor through a catheter a physician guides into the hepatic artery, the liver’s main blood vessel. Once in place, the microspheres are inserted into the catheter, where they can enter the smaller blood vessels supplying the liver tumor and block the flow of blood. Then, the microspheres emit radiation to destroy cancer cells in the tumor, while sparing healthy liver tissue.
Chemoembolization: With this treatment, chemotherapy drugs are delivered directly to a liver tumor. This delivery method minimizes side effects, like nausea and vomiting, and maximizes the cancer-killing properties of the drugs.
During the procedure, chemotherapy is injected through a catheter directly into a liver tumor using image guidance. The chemotherapy drugs are mixed with microspheres, which block the flow of blood to the tumor. Without a blood supply, the tumor no longer has the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow.
Chemoembolization allows high doses of chemotherapy drugs to be targeted directly to the cancerous portion of the liver for a longer period of time, without exposing the entire body to the effect of the drugs.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): RFA has become a major treatment method for small tumors. This technique may offer faster, more targeted cancer treatment with fewer side effects and shorter hospital stays compared with standard therapies.
During the procedure, a thin, needle-like probe is inserted through the skin and into the tumor, guiding it into place with ultrasound or CT scans. Electrical energy is then passed through the tip of the probe, which heats and "melts away" cancerous tumors. RFA carries the lowest risk compared to other cancer cell ablation techniques.