Recently, a 26-year-old woman gave birth to her first child at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Although there were no complications prenatally or during delivery, immediately after her delivery, the mother developed severe, life-threatening bleeding.
"In the past, her only hope for survival might have been surgical hysterectomy, an operation certainly effective in controlling post-partum hemorrhage but ensuring that her baby boy would be an only child," explains Donny Baek, MD, Interventional Radiologist at Torrance Memorial.
However, with minimally invasive, image-guided tools at their disposal, the Interventional Radiology (IR) team stopped her bleeding with a thin catheter inserted though a tiny puncture wound in her groin to seal off the bleeding arteries of the uterus. Moreover, they did so using material that would dissolve in a few weeks, which allowed blood flow to return to her uterus-healed and no longer bleeding, in hopes of maintaining fertility and increasing the odds that her son would have a sibling in the future.
This innovative diagnosis and minimally invasive solution is the result of Interventional Radiology and the IR team at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. A radiologist is a physician who completes a four-year residency program to master each imaging modality that is used on the human body, such as X-ray, CT, ultrasound or MRI. This is following completion of medical school and a year of medical or surgical internship. IR is the use of minimally invasive imaging procedures-from CT scans to angioplasty-to treat and cure various disease processes. Interventional radiologists spend an additional year of subspecialty training to learn to use this expertise in imaging as a tool to perform a wide variety of minimally invasive procedures.
IR involves nearly all the body's organ systems, from procedures in the head (including the treatment of strokes and aneurysms) down to the toes (including re-establishing blood flow down to the small arteries of the feet). "The field of IR is synonymous with creativity and innovation," says Baek. "Since its birth under the field's founding father, Charles Dotter, who in 1964 developed and performed the world's first angioplasty, interventional radiologists have consistently looked for ways to treat disease better, faster, more efficiently and safer, leading to less patient discomfort, minimal to no scarring and a faster recovery."
These techniques are widely adopted and used today by numerous other medical specialties, such as cardiology and vascular surgery. What makes interventional radiologists unique is that they use their expertise in imaging to guide the therapy across all the imaging modalities, wielding the advantages of each at any stage of the procedure to the patient's benefit.
"Numerous times a day at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, interventional radiologists perform imaging-guided biopsies, most commonly using CT scans or ultrasound to guide needles safely to an area of interest for tissue sampling to diagnose disease, and venous access procedures, catheterization of deeper veins of the body, for the administration of medications when the more superficial veins closer to the skin are unsuitable," explains Baek.
"In another example," Baek continues, "a 43-year-old previously healthy woman was brought into our emergency department by her husband after she abruptly became confused and was unable to move her left side." After the radiologist diagnosed a large stroke, interventional radiology was mobilized for prompt treatment.
With conventional medicine, if she survived the stroke at all, the woman would have undoubtedly been left with permanent left-sided weakness, if not paralysis, and would have subsequently been unable to care for herself or certainly her family. Instead, through the use of IR, the small clot blocking the flow of blood to the patient's brain was dissolved, disrupted and removed. This re-established blood flow and returned the motor function she had lost, with minimal residual neurologic deficit.
"To some degree, nearly all hospitals throughout the country have radiologists that can perform imaging-guided procedures. However, at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, I am pleased to say that we enjoy technologies that are frequently seen only at tertiary care or academic centers, ensuring our patients always have access to the cutting edge of medicine so they may enjoy the benefits yielded from the newest in minimally invasive techniques," says Baek.