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Spring 2007

Guided Imaging Allows Less Invasive Procedures

Advances in imaging and instrumentation enable procedures that once required open surgery to be performed through incisions the size of a pencil point. Interventional radiologists play an expanding role in this trend toward minimally invasive treatments.

Under the guidance of imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scans, ultrasound and other techniques, interventional radiologists place catheters and other tiny instruments through the skin to assist in the treatment of conditions ranging from clogged arteries and varicose veins to back pain, fibroids and cancer. “There is a long list of things we can do, from stopping the bleeding to opening arteries to relieve obstruction,” says Stephen Kee, M.D., UCLA interventional radiologist. The minimally invasive approach means less risk, less pain and faster recovery times compared to open surgery. Procedures are typically performed on an outpatient basis or require only a short hospital stay, and general anesthesia is usually not required. Some interventional radiology applications offered at UCLA include:

Back Fracture
Certain back fractures can be treated with a kyphoplasty procedure in which a balloon is inserted into the compressed vertebra and acrylic cement injected into the resulting cavity.

Interventional radiology techniques can control persistent bleeding from ulcers, which can prevent the need for surgery. Balloon angioplasty and stents can be used to open blocked or narrowed blood vessels for conditions such as peripheral vascular disease and renal artery hypertension.

Blood clots in deep veins can be dissolved by interventional radiologists. Painful, unsightly varicose veins can also be treated with a minor laser procedure. “Varicose vein therapy has undergone a revolution with the introduction of endovascular venous laser therapy,” says Cheryl Hoffman, M.D., UCLA interventional radiologist. “This therapy can be done in a matter of hours, requiring no hospitalization and a shorter recovery time than traditional surgical techniques.”

With catheter-directed chemo-embolization, cancer-fighting drugs can be delivered through catheters directly to the site of the tumor. With image-guided radiofrequency ablation techniques, cancers in the lung, liver and bones can be heated to kill the cancer cells.

Uterine fibroid embolization provides a minimally invasive alternative to hysterectomy for women with benign tumors.

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