A new day for radiology

It’s seemingly the dawn of a new era for the radiology department at Trinity Health with their addition of leading-edge and minimally invasive treatments that are currently now available to patients of Trinity. Specifically, a new interventional radiology service was officially launched just this past month when two interventional radiologists were added to the staff and a new interventional radiology suite opened at Trinity Hospital.

Dr. Kenneth Keller, medical director of radiology and advanced imaging services for Trinity Health, was excited about the new changes and said this is an exciting time.

“The radiology department has offered some IR procedures for many years, but we didn’t have enough radiologists to offer a full service with 24/7 on-call coverage, and we didn’t have a room dedicated to interventional radiology that allowed us to do high-quality IR procedures,” he said. “Now we have both of those things.”

In turn, this creates a whole new set of treatment options for patients with a wide range of health conditions in Minot and surrounding areas, he added.

The new IR suite at Trinity features the most advanced technology of its kind. A Digital Subtraction Angiography system is used that makes it possible to clearly visualize blood vessels in bony or dense soft tissue. The system is similar to a conventional cardiac catheterization laboratory.

The staff at the new IR suite includes Keller; Dr. Sridha (Jake) Naidu and Dr. Jaime Sheperd, both interventional radiologists; and Heather Boyko, nurse practitioner. Keller will provide backup support.

Diagnostic radiology uses radiation or other sophisticated imaging technologies to evaluate patients, Keller explained in basic terms. In the 1970s, however, doctors realized they could do more than just take x-rays and have been using interventional radiology for about 35 years, he continued.

“We’ve been trying to develop a true IR service for a long time and we now have two radiologists who can take turns being on call,” Keller said. “We have vigorously renewed our long-term commitment to interventional radiology by recruiting two radiologists and we’ve refurbished our imaging suite, so now patients can have (procedures) done here instead of having to leave town.”

Interventional radiology involves the image-guided placement of catheters (long, narrow, flexible tubes) that are threaded through arteries or veins in all parts of the body for the purpose of diagnosing and treating health conditions internally at their source. The health problems that can be studied and addressed with IR techniques involve nearly every organ system. Interventional radiology offers treatments for varicose veins, stent placement, biopsies, cancer treatments, dialysis maintenance, drainage procedures, various kinds of injections, and thrombolytic therapy where a clot-dissolving medication is infused into a blood clot. Some interventional radiology procedures have become the standard of care for various conditions. Liver cancer, for example, is frequently treated using interventional radiology technology in the form of chemoembolization or radioembolization.

“Until the emergence of interventional radiology techniques with high resolution imaging, we were not able to see blood vessels and other small structures as well as we would have liked. Once you can see the details, you can see what needs to be done,” Keller explained.

Interventional radiology isn’t exactly surgery and there’s usually no need to stay in the hospital, according to Keller. “We prefer to do the procedure in the morning so the patient can go home in the afternoon or evening,” he explained. “We give (the patient) a little sedative to help them relax. We’re putting something in the body, not taking out a tumor.”

“The increasing volume of patients and the need for more doctors have served as catalysts for the changes in radiology and advanced imaging services at Trinity Health,” Keller said. When you have an increase in patients, then you will have to provide more services, he added. The decision was a made a year and a half ago to renew the commitment to interventional radiology that would allow patients to stay in town to have procedures done, Keller explained. “We put it together aggressively and now it has come to fruition.”

“The hospital is being challenged like it has never been challenged before,” Keller said. “It’s important that we have the tools, techniques and personnel to take care of our patients right here in Minot.”

Trinity Health has already started using the interventional radiology techniques and patients have been very satisfied with the changes. Patients like having the option of staying in town to have the procedures done as an out-patient, Keller said. Plus, there aren’t incisions or stitches used because the techniques are minimally invasive and patients don’t need to be put to sleep, he added.

“Patients like how convenient this is. It’s great to have this technology for our patients who have needed these kinds of procedures, and we’ve seen patients needing to have the procedure done,” Keller said. “It’s exciting to see this come to shape.”