What is Interventional Neuroradiology?

Sarah Kay Moll

Interventional neuroradiology (INR) is a nonsurgical and minimally invasive way of diagnosing and treating diseases of the nervous system that occur mainly in the head, neck and spine. INR uses advanced imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Brain diseases such as cerebral aneurysm, stroke and some types of tumors can be diagnosed and treated using minimally invasive image-based technologies. Hard-to-reach tumors that previously were difficult to treat can also be targeted with interventional neuroradiology.

Interventional neuroradiology uses MRIs and other imaging technology to diagnose problems in the brain.
Interventional neuroradiology uses MRIs and other imaging technology to diagnose problems in the brain.

Typically, interventional neuroradiology uses imaging techniques such as magnetic source imaging (MSI), which measures the magnetic forces caused by electrical activity in the brain. Another minimally invasive imaging technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) picks up signals from different chemicals in the body. This allows doctors to see how aggressive a tumor is by watching how the chemical reactions change in that part of the body. Angiography is another interventional neuroradiology technique, and it allows doctors to see the inside of blood vessels and arteries. In angiography, a certain chemical is injected into the bloodstream and then followed using X-ray techniques.

A cerebral aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning of a blood vessel in the brain. The added pressure can weaken an artery and increase the risk of bleeding out, which can result in permanent brain damage or even death. Interventional neuroradiology techniques can treat an aneurysm without invasive surgery. In these minimally invasive image-based procedures, a hollow plastic tube called a catheter is inserted into the leg, and it travels up to the site of the aneurysm. There, it releases tiny platinum coils that cut off the aneurysm from blood circulation.

Interventional neuroradiology can also diagnose and treat vascular tumors inside the skull or in the neck region. A catheter is inserted into the bloodstream and followed with imaging techniques. After it reaches the tumor, it uses embolic material to block off the flow of blood to the tumor. This technique is often done before the tumor is surgically removed, and it reduces the risk of bleeding into the nervous system during the operation.

A stroke is a serious condition in which the flow of blood to part of the brain is cut off, causing cell death in the affected area. It is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Interventional neuroradiology uses imaging techniques to diagnose the location of a stroke. These techniques also can be used to deliver certain medications that break up blood clots directly at the site of the stroke.

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