What Is Neurointerventional Radiology?
Neurointerventional radiology is a specialized field of medicine that treats conditions that affect the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord, including:
- arteriovenous malformations (irregular clusters of blood vessels that disrupt blood flow);
- brain aneurysms (a weakened area or bulge in a blood vessel in the brain);
- brain or spinal cord tumors;
- carotid artery disease;
- dural arteriovenous fistula;
- spine, head, and neck tumors;
- idiopathic intracranial hypertension (increased pressure in the brain);
- intracranial atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the brain);
- pulsatile tinnitus;
- vascular malformations (irregularities in blood vessels often present at birth); or
- vasospasm (sudden contraction and narrowing of a blood vessel in the brain).
Neurointerventional Radiology Procedures
The basics of all neurointerventional radiology procedures are the same. In a neurointerventional radiology procedure, your neurointerventional radiologist will:
- place a catheter (long thin tube) through one of your blood vessels.
- use X-rays or other imaging tools to guide the catheter to your brain.
- send medicines, mechanical devices, or other treatments through the catheter.
We use neurointerventional radiology during both diagnosis and treatment. Procedures may include:
- Aneurysm coiling—Our neurointerventional radiologists will insert a small coil through the catheter and place it in the aneurysm. Your body will form a clot around the coil, blocking off the aneurysm to keep it from growing or rupturing.
- Balloon occlusion test—We will use a special dye and a small balloon to block blood flow in one artery temporarily. You may have this test if you have an aneurysm or tumor in one of your main arteries. Treatment may include blocking blood flow to the aneurysm or tumor to keep it from growing or rupturing. We use the test to assess whether we can block that artery during treatment without significantly affecting blood flow to your brain.
- Carotid angioplasty—Our neurointerventional radiologists will place a small, flexible metal tube (stent) in the carotid artery. The stent helps support the artery walls to improve blood flow.
- Cerebral angiogram—An angiogram is a test to evaluate blood flow. We insert the catheter through a blood vessel in your arm or leg, then send contrast dye through the catheter. We use X-ray imaging to watch how the contrast dye flows through your blood vessels, which can help us diagnose conditions affecting your blood vessels.
- Embolization—We place medications or other synthetic materials (embolic agents) through the catheter and into your blood vessels. These embolic agents block blood flow to certain areas, which is often done to treat irregular tangles of blood vessels or tumors.
- Endovascular thrombectomy—In this innovative stroke treatment, we use the catheter to reach a blood clot in the brain. We may send a medication through the catheter to dissolve the clot. Or, we may place a mechanical device that traps the clot and either breaks it up or removes it.
What to Expect during Your First Appointment
Sometimes your neurointerventional radiologist will provide emergency treatment for conditions such as a stroke. In these cases, you will not have an initial clinic visit.
However, if you come in for outpatient care, your first appointment with a neurointerventional radiologist will be much like any other doctor’s appointment. You’ll discuss your health history, symptoms, and any previous imaging you’ve had.
At the end of the first visit, our neurointerventional radiologist may recommend a diagnostic angiogram to get a better look at your blood vessels.
You will remain awake during the angiogram but receive numbing medicine so you won’t feel the procedure. During a diagnostic angiogram, the neurointerventional radiologist will:
- use a needle to place a catheter through a blood vessel in your groin or wrist,
- position the catheter to the blood vessels supplying your brain or spine, and
- take multiple images to evaluate the blood vessels.
You will go home the same day as a diagnostic angiogram. Depending on the test results, your neurointerventional radiologist may recommend further treatment.
Our Neurointerventional Radiologists
Why Choose University of Utah Health?
We are the highest-volume neurointerventional radiology team in the Mountain West region. All of our neurointerventional radiologists are fellowship-trained and focus on neurointerventional procedures full-time.
We collaborate closely with multiple specialists to offer comprehensive care. We regularly participate in clinical trials, bringing patients the most innovative new techniques and treatment options.
Schedule A Consultation with Our Neurointerventional Radiologists
You may make an appointment with our neurointerventional radiologists by calling 801-581-7840. You don’t need a referral to make an appointment, but please ask your primary care provider to send us your medical records before your appointment. To refer a patient to our neurointerventional radiology team, call 801-581-7840.