Interventional radiologists are often called upon to treat various urological and kidney conditions using targeted, minimally invasive techniques. These include prostate artery embolization, varicocele embolization, renal (kidney) tumor ablation, nephrostomy placement and ureteral stent placement.
Prostate artery embolization. Prostate artery embolization is a new approach for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms. Through image guidance, an interventional radiologist makes a tiny incision in either the groin or the wrist to insert a catheter into an artery and directs the small tube to blood vessels of the prostate. Once there, the interventional radiologist blocks the blood flow to specific areas of the prostate, depriving those prostate cells of oxygen and resulting in shrinkage of the prostate gland. Patients who undergo PAE have reported no urinary incontinence or sexual side effects.
Varicocele embolization. A varicocele is an enlarged vein in a man’s scrotum that may cause pain, swelling or infertility. Varicocele embolization uses imaging guidance and a catheter to place a tiny coil and/or embolic fluid in a blood vessel to divert blood flow away from a varicocele. It’s less invasive than conventional surgery, can safely relieve pain and swelling, and may improve sperm quality.
Renal tumor ablation. Renal tumor ablation is a minimally invasive treatment that utilizes a technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA). It is an effective treatment option for patients with one kidney or for those who might have difficulty with surgery. RFA uses heat to destroy cancer cells, aided by imaging techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that help guide a needle electrode into a cancerous tumor. High-frequency electrical currents are then passed through the electrode to ground pads placed on the body, creating focal heat that destroys kidney cancer cells surrounding the electrode.
Nephrostomy placement. Placement of a percutaneous nephrostomy tube may be necessary when something is blocking the normal path that urine takes to leave the body. Urine from the kidneys passes through thin, narrow tubes called ureters that are connected to the bladder where urine is stored until urination occurs. When the ureters become blocked by stones or blood clots, urine stays in the kidneys and will cause problems. The nephrostomy tube is put in to drain the urine directly from the kidneys. This is an effective treatment for patients with pelvic tumors, damage to the urinary system, prostate cancer, or other conditions.
Ureteral stent placement. Ureteral stenting helps restore urine flow through blocked ureters and return the kidney to normal function. Ureters are long, narrow tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. They can become obstructed – and urine flow blocked – as a result of various conditions. An interventional radiologist may use image guidance to place a thin, flexible tube called a stent into the ureter to restore urine flow.