It’s important to understand your options as you prepare for an upcoming interventional radiology procedure. Talk with your care team about the following questions. Each answer may vary based on your unique situation.

What is interventional radiology?

Interventional radiology is an advanced treatment alternative to traditional surgery. Through a tiny incision in your skin, interventional radiologists are able to deliver precise treatment for common and life-threatening conditions. Because interventional radiology is less invasive than surgery, patients often experience quicker recovery and, in many cases, more effective results.

With minimized risk and pain compared to surgery, interventional radiology leverages advanced imaging techniques, such as ultrasounds, X-rays, and MRI scans, to see inside your body and treat a variety of conditions, including:

Learn more about MedStar Health’s interventional radiology services.

How is interventional radiology different than surgery?

Unlike traditional surgery, interventional radiology requires only a tiny incision the size of a pinhole. That means less pain for patients—and a faster recovery. Most interventional radiology procedures can be completed in an outpatient setting, allowing many patients to go home the same day they receive treatment. If a hospital stay is necessary, patients are often discharged within 24 hours.

While many surgical procedures require patients to undergo general anesthesia, interventional radiology uses conscious sedation techniques to make patients comfortable and relaxed during the procedure without the risks of complication from general anesthesia.

Interventional radiology procedures have been proven to result in similar outcomes—or at times—significantly better outcomes than traditional open surgery. In fact, for certain treatments, interventional radiology has replaced traditional open surgery.

Who performs interventional radiology procedures?

At MedStar Health, all interventional radiology procedures are performed by board-certified doctors who have completed subspecialty training in interventional radiology. As part of your care team, your interventional radiologist may also work with nurse practitioners and physician assistants who also have received specialized training in interventional radiology. In addition, interventional radiologists work closely with doctors in other medical specialties to ensure personalized care based on your individual needs.

Should I eat before my interventional radiology procedure?

Your interventional radiologist will advise you during your pre-procedure consultation of any nutritional guidelines to follow. Generally speaking, you may be required to stop eating solid foods at midnight before your procedure.

Can I continue taking my regular medications before my interventional radiology procedure?

Your interventional radiologist will advise you during your pre-procedure consultation of what medications you should or shouldn’t continue to take. In most cases, your doctor will advise you to continue taking your regular medications. However, your radiologist will likely advise you to stop taking any blood thinning medications for a certain number of days before the procedure.

Will I be awake during my interventional radiology procedure? Will I receive general anesthesia?

Unlike traditional surgery, patients undergoing interventional radiology procedures generally do not receive general anesthesia. Since general anesthesia isn’t typically necessary for interventional radiology procedures, you’ll benefit from a quicker recovery and less risk of complications.

Instead, your care team will generally numb the incision area with a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort. Then they will use an intravenous (IV) line to deliver sedation, which will make you more comfortable and relaxed during your procedure. You can rest easy knowing that you will feel minimal pain.

Depending on your procedure, age, and medical condition, your sedation level may range from:

  • Minimal – You will be drowsy but able to talk
  • Moderate – You may fall asleep and be unaware of your surroundings for some of the procedure
  • Deep (“Twilight”) – You will be asleep but will breathe on your own. You will have very little memory of the procedure

How soon can I leave after my interventional radiology procedure? Will I be able to drive?

Most interventional radiology procedures involving arteries and veins require a minimum recovery of six hours. For other interventional radiology procedures, you may need to stay one night in the hospital before being discharged. Your care team will inform you of your expected recovery time prior to your appointment.

It’s important to note that you will not be able to drive after your procedure. Please be sure to arrange for someone else to accompany you to your procedure and take you home.

When will I find out my results?

If you had a biopsy or other diagnostic interventional radiology procedure, your care team will call you to share any imaging results. Timing varies based on your procedure and the location you where you received your procedure. Your care team will inform you of when to expect a call with the results.

Learn more about the benefits and risks of interventional radiology.

Contact Us

For more information or to schedule an appointment with an interventional radiologist, view our locations.