What is an angiogram?

Angiography is an X-ray exam of the arteries and veins to diagnose blockages and other blood vessel problems. Angiograms are performed by interventional radiologists (I.R.). During an angiogram, the doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into the artery through a small nick in the skin about the size of the tip of a pencil. A substance called a contrast agent (X-ray dye) is injected to make the blood vessels visible on the X-ray. In many cases, an I.R. can treat a blocked blood vessel without surgery at the same time the angiogram is performed. Interventional radiologists treat blockages with techniques called angioplasty and thrombolysis.

What is a brain (or cerebral) aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is a weak spot in the brain arteries that bulge and have the potential to rupture. Aneurysms are most frequently detected between the ages of 35 and 60. They are more common in women than men.

Who is a candidate for vertebroplasty?

People who have suffered recent fractures that are causing moderate to severe back pain despite standard therapy with rest and pain medications, are the best candidates for vertebroplasty. Older fractures may be treated, but the procedure is most successful if it is performed within one year of when the fracture occurs. Chronically painful fractures causing pain for months to years are also very frequently treated with excellent results. The procedure is not used to treat arthritis or herniated disks.

Why is carotid angioplasty and stenting necessary?

Patients with significant carotid stenosis are potential candidates for the procedure. Carotid angioplasty and stenting should be reserved for patients who are not good surgical candidates. The devices used in angioplasty and stenting are not yet FDA approved for this purpose, although this will likely change in the near future. A few examples of candidates for angioplasty and stenting include: patients with illnesses that prevent surgery, prior radiation therapy to the neck, prior carotid endarterectomy, and lesions that are difficult to access surgically.

Where can I learn more about interventional surgery?

To get an idea of the breadth of type of procedures done by interventionalists, see the docuseries on interventional radiology featuring real world cases at Without a Scalpel—the Technology and People Behind Modern Surgery.

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