Informing patients of the advantages of  interventional radiology and minimally invasive surgery

18 September 2008

The Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE) ran a Patient Awareness Programme at its annual meeting this week to bridge the gap between the potential of interventional radiology and patients' knowledge of it.

More than 5.000 interventional radiologists gathered in Copenhagen to focus on the progress of interventional radiology as an alternative to surgery. Surgery has been the preferred choice of treatment for many years and a large number of the interventional radiology procedures are still unknown to patients

"Due to the increasing demand for minimally invasive procedures, interventional radiology has become one of the fastest growing medical subspecialties. The procedures offer numerous advantages for the patients including mitigated risks, no scarring, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery and no general anaesthesia. Our goal is to achieve the public recognition and acceptance of interventional radiology and its key role in the treatment of diseases, spanning across the broad spectrum of medical specialties," says Jim A. Reekers, the president of CIRSE.

Interventional Radiology is a radiological discipline providing minimally invasive treatments performed under image guidance. Unfortunately, a large number of the interventional radiology procedures are still virtually unknown to patients. Many general practitioners and other referring specialists remain unaware of the very real and sound therapy options that minimally invasive procedures can offer.

At this year’s meeting, CIRSE addressed for the first time the patients themselves. One of the highlights of the meeting was a Patient Awareness Programme in which doctors and previous IR-patients spread the word to patients that interventional radiology is an alternative to surgery. The programme focused on three major diseases that affect a great part of the population:

  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization: Uterine fibroids affect 30% of all women. Although these benign tumours are not life-threatening, they can cause severe symptoms. So far, the final treatment for most women has been a complete removal of the uterus. Now study results show that uterus - preserving embolization is a better treatment option. Embolization is a new and safe alternative treatment option for fibroid disease. The so-called "keyhole surgery" performed by interventional radiologists does not require general anaesthesia and does not cause surgical scarring.
  • Interventional Oncology: Delivery of cancer-fighting agents directly to the site of a cancer tumour; currently being used mostly to treat cancers of the endocrine system, including melanoma and liver cancers. The treatment method uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to cook and kill cancerous tumours. Interventional Radiology improves the survival frequency by 40 percent.
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease: Opens blocked or narrowed blood vessels by inserting a very small balloon into the vessel and inflating it. Interventional radiology has be used to unblock clogged arteries in the legs or arms (called peripheral vascular disease or PVD), kidneys, brain or elsewhere in the body.

“Only few patients know that there exists an alternative that can treat many conditions without the use of surgery. In a world where patients are starting to take their own initiative with regards their healthcare, we would like to provide the patients with the information that they need in order to make a choice about treatment options. The patients attending the Patient Awareness Programme were very interested in getting knowledge about IR as a treatment option. Its success shows the importance of communication with the patients as well as doctors”, says Poul Erik Andersen, the local chairman of CIRSE.

CIRSE represents 20 national societies from Europe and organises the largest non-cardiac endovascular meeting in Europe every year. This year CIRSE spends over 100,000 Euros on education grants allowing young interventional radiologists to spend up to three months at another hospital and to receive valuable training in specific interventional radiology procedures.

For more information about embolisation or other interventional radiological procedures, please contact the CIRSE Central Office (, who can refer you to a specialist in your country.

You can also find extensive advice on the use of interventional radiology on the CIRSE website:

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