Animal Talk

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There is a new field in veterinary surgery that is exciting and growing called Interventional Radiology (IR) and Interventional Endoscopy (IE). These are useful tools in human medicine that are now being applied to companion animals.  I recently became aware of these new methods when my son (who is a veterinary student) worked for the summer as an IR research assistant at the Animal Medical Center (AMC) in NYC. The AMC is the first veterinary facility to offer a complete service in these techniques.

Interventional Radiology makes use of video x-ray called fluoroscopy to achieve real time imaging. This allows the surgeon to gain access to various body systems with a minimum of incisions. When IR is combined with endoscopy, which involves tiny cameras that are advanced through natural orifices, the veterinarian can now utilize minimally invasive surgery. Examples of these interventional procedures include: placing stents for tracheal collapse, repairing liver shunts, delivering chemotherapy drugs via arterial supply directly to tumors, managing blood clots, feeding tube placement, and removal of kidney, ureteral and bladder stones.

The advantages of IR and IE are that older or debilitated pets can benefit from life saving procedures with minimal anesthesia and surgical trauma. There are shorter hospital stays and sometimes lower costs. These alternative options are now being perfected through research. They are not widely available due to the sophisticated instrumentation and steep learning curve for the surgeon. Interventional medicine is a growing field, however, and will surely become established in veterinary medicine.