Interventional Radiology

What is Interventional Radiology?

Some times to diagnose and treat a disease, a small cut in the skin is used to insert thin flexible tubes (catheters) and medical devices into the body. To guide the tubes, X-ray movies (fluoroscopy) are used. This process is called Interventional Radiology and is often used instead of open surgery. By reducing the size of the cut, the healing time and infection and other risks are reduced. It may also mean that a local rather than a general anaesthetic can be used.

What are the types of Interventional Radiology?

A great explanation of what Interventional Radiology is and the types of diseases that it can be used to treat can be found here. The British Society of Interventional Radiology (BSIR) have developed a very clear film (see below) describing the types of Interventional Radiology and the benefits.

Click on the image above to watch a video from the British Society of Interventional Radiology about the benefits and process of Interventional Radiology.

What do I need to know?

This video discusses the process involved in Interventional Radiology using fluoroscopy.

Take away points:

  • Interventional Radiology is used because the risks are smaller than other methods of surgery.

  • It may use any form of image guidance including fluoroscopy, CT or ultrasound.

  • Fluoroscopy is the most common form of ionising radiation used for image guidance and so is the focus of this page.

  • You should tell the person doing your test if you are, or think you could be, pregnant.

  • You will be asked to agree (consent) to the process before you have it.

  • There is a small chance that if the procedure is complex, you will experience skin burns in the area at a later date. If this may happen following your procedure this will form part of the consent process.

  • After the procedure, your doctor should be able to tell you whether you are at increased risk of skin burns.

  • Any skin burns should be reported to your doctor.

Skin burns

Throughout your procedure, the Radiographer and the doctor will be aware of the radiation dose that you are receiving. They will make sure that the dose is as low as possible. While it is rare, sometimes you may be at risk of skin reddening and burns (also known as erythema) after the procedure. You will be given information on what to do if this happens. However, some simple steps you can take that may ease the burn are:

  • Apply a moisturiser to the reddened area 2 times a day. For example E45 cream.

  • Take a bath or shower every day if possible, using baby soap or unperfumed soap or unperfumed shower gel.

  • Pat the area dry with a soft towel, being very gentle with folds of skin, taking care not to rub.

  • Do not swim if you have visibly red skin.

  • Do not use a sun bed.

Patient shielding

In the past, you may have been given a lead apron or small shields for a certain body part during an X-ray. Recent science shows that this is usually not necessary due to improvements in technology and scientific knowledge.

You may notice that you are no longer offered shielding. If you would like more information on why this change has happened, you can find it in this document (BIR).


  • Interventional radiology will only be used if a healthcare professional can show that the benefit to you is greater than the risk (justified).

  • This uses X-rays that do not hurt though other parts of the procedure may cause discomfort. Usually, this is much less than if the procedure were carried out with open surgery.

  • The fluoroscopy equipment will be maintained to keep the dose and risk to you as low as possible.

  • The individual carrying out the imaging will be trained to keep the dose and risk to you as low as possible.

  • If you have any more questions, please ask a healthcare professional.

If you'd like to find out more about the risks associated with this procedure, there is more information within the 'Radiation Risk' section.