SIR 2015: Interventional Radiology Needs More Visibility


As doctor’s doctors, radiologists like pathologists may be among the most invisible and least understood medical specialists by patients. Interventional radiologists should be the exception, having a visbility level by potential patients similar to surgeons. But they don’t, researchers told attendees at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiologists held earlier this month in Atlanta.

Co-authors David Heister, M.D., Ph.D., chief resident in the Department of Radiology at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) and Isabel Newton, M.D., of the Veterans Affairs Hospital in La Jolla are currently filming a documentary entitled “Without a Scalpel; the Secret World of Interventional Radiology.” They hypothesize that a lack of patient awareness of interventional radiology (IR) may result in patients’ favoring surgery over unfamiliar minimally invasive IR procedures despite lower associated risks and faster recovery time. They conducted a small survey of 80 outpatients at the UCSD Radiology Department to assess patients’ familiarity and impression of IR. >

Only 35% of patients surveyed were familiar with IR, but almost 605 had a positive impression. As might be expected, the 11% of patients surveyed who were having IR treatment were more aware of IR procedures and the physicians who performed them. Of the 84% of patients having a different type of imaging exam, only 17% had a positive impression of IR. Three fourth’s of these patients either had no impression of IR or a negative impression. When patients were subsequently briefly educated about the fact that IR procedures might be a clinically appropriate alternative over surgery, the majority expressed positive interst.

“Our small study found that only 35% of outpatients coming to the general radiology department waiting room had heard of IR. There are many ways to better explain what IR is to our patients. One method would be to take advantage of our association with diagnostic radiology to educate all patients spending time in the radiology department about  minimally invasive procedures available and the expertise of interventional radiologists, commented Heister.

Newton added, “I believe the problem of a lack of public awareness of our field – whether the general public, patients, or other health care providers — is larger than individual radiology departments or institutions. Increased awareness is going to take significant public outreach and education efforts.”

Heister and Newton believe that it is critically important to educate referring physicians, nurse practitioners and other healthcare-related professionals. This can be done with tradiational educational information, giving grand rounds, leading tumor boards, and referencing IR procedures in diagnostic imaging reports.  They encourage interventional radiologists interested in publishing articles to submit them to peer-review journals outside the radiology profession and to apply to speak about minimally invasive procedure options at other national medical specialty conferences.

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SIR 2015: Interventional Radiology Needs More Visibility.  Appl Radiol. 

March 18, 2015
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