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Interventional Radiology Procedures

Discover the groundbreaking world of interventional radiology procedures, where minimally invasive techniques are revolutionizing medical treatments and enhancing patient outcomes.

USMLE Guide: Interventional Radiology Procedures


Interventional radiology (IR) is a medical specialty that uses minimally invasive techniques to diagnose and treat various diseases. This guide aims to provide an overview of key interventional radiology procedures, which are important topics to know for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

1. Angiography

  • Angiography is the imaging technique used to visualize blood vessels within the body.
  • It involves the injection of a contrast agent and the use of X-rays or fluoroscopy to visualize the blood vessels.
  • Angiography can help diagnose conditions such as arterial stenosis, aneurysms, and vascular malformations.

2. Angioplasty

  • Angioplasty is a procedure used to widen narrowed or obstructed blood vessels.
  • It involves the use of a catheter with a balloon at its tip, which is inflated to compress the plaque or blockage and restore blood flow.
  • Angioplasty is commonly performed in patients with coronary artery disease or peripheral arterial disease.

3. Embolization

  • Embolization is a procedure used to block or reduce blood flow to a specific area of the body.
  • It involves the insertion of small particles or coils into the blood vessels to block them.
  • Embolization is commonly used to treat conditions such as uterine fibroids, arteriovenous malformations, and bleeding.

4. Biopsy

  • In interventional radiology, biopsies can be performed using image guidance to obtain tissue samples for diagnosis.
  • Common biopsy procedures include fine-needle aspiration (FNA) and core needle biopsy.
  • Image guidance techniques such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI help ensure accurate targeting of the biopsy site.

5. Drainage

  • Interventional radiology procedures can be used to drain fluid collections or abscesses.
  • Techniques such as percutaneous drainage or catheter placement are commonly employed.
  • These procedures are often less invasive than surgical drainage and can be performed with image guidance.

6. Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

  • RFA is a technique used to treat certain types of tumors, such as liver tumors or renal cell carcinoma.
  • It involves the use of heat generated by radiofrequency waves to destroy cancer cells.
  • Image guidance helps ensure accurate placement of the RFA probe and monitoring of the treatment.

7. Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE)

  • TACE is a procedure used to treat liver tumors that cannot be surgically removed.
  • It involves the delivery of chemotherapy drugs directly into the blood vessels supplying the tumor.
  • Embolic agents are also used to block the blood vessels, reducing blood flow and limiting tumor growth.

8. Vertebroplasty/Kyphoplasty

  • Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are procedures used to treat vertebral compression fractures.
  • They involve the injection of bone cement into the fractured vertebrae to stabilize and relieve pain.
  • These procedures are commonly performed under fluoroscopic guidance.


Interventional radiology procedures play a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions. Understanding the principles and applications of these procedures is crucial for medical professionals, and knowledge of these topics is important for the USMLE. This guide has provided an overview of key interventional radiology procedures that may be encountered on the exam.

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