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Interventional Radiology at UPMC

With 100+ imaging centers throughout Pennsylvania, western New York, and western Maryland, UPMC Imaging Services offers interventional radiology (IR) near you.

IR is an option to treat many conditions in place of major surgery. And, in some cases, you don't need to stay in the hospital.

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What Is Interventional Radiology?

IR techniques both diagnose and treat a broad range of diseases. They provide a less invasive option than surgery.

Doctors use various small instruments — such as tubes or wires — and x-rays, CT scans, or ultrasound guidance.

Often, they only need to make tiny, pinhole-sized incisions to guide the tools right to where you need treatment.

Interventional Radiology Procedures


  • Inserts small applicators through the skin to emit energy used to destroy tumor cells in targeted area of the body.
  • Treats both benign and cancerous tumors of the kidney, liver, lung, soft tissue, and bone tumors. Doctors may combine it with other therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.


  • Detects blocked or narrowed arteries and veins using an x-ray.
  • Treats blocked vessels, such as those in the legs or kidneys, with a small stent that inflates and opens the vessel. This IR technique is balloon angioplasty.


  • Uses a balloon-tipped catheter to open up blocked or narrowed blood vessels.


  • Uses a small tube to insert a substance — such as a sponge or beads — into a blood vessel to stop excessive bleeding.

Endovascular arteriovenous (AV) fistula creation

  • Uses a minimally invasive method to create an AV fistula that allows access for dialysis.

Feeding tubes

  • Inserts a tube into the stomach to nourish people who can't eat or drink by mouth.

Intravascular ultrasound

  • Uses ultrasound to better see inside a blood vessel and detect problems.

Stent placement

  • Places a tiny coil (stent) inside a blood vessel at the site of a blockage. The stent expands to open up the blockage.

Foreign body extraction

  • Uses a catheter to retrieve a foreign body from a blood vessel.

Needle biopsy

  • Uses imaging techniques to guide a small needle into an abnormal area almost anywhere in the body to get a tissue sample.
  • Can provide a diagnosis without surgery.

Inferior vena cava filter placement/removal

  • Inserts a small filtering device into a large vein in the abdomen to prevent blood clots from the legs or pelvis (see DVT below) from traveling to the lungs. The filter would then be removed at a later time after consultation with your doctor.

Catheter insertions

  • Inserts a catheter into large veins to give chemotherapy drugs, nutritional support, and hemodialysis.

Cancer treatment

  • Uses IR techniques to deliver cancer drugs right to the tumor site.

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Conditions We Treat with Interventional Radiology

IR can treat a number of health conditions.

If you have any of the following, talk to your doctor to see if IR is a suitable treatment option.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that occurs when the cells of the prostate gland multiply. It is typically caused by age.

There are many treatments for BPH, including prostate artery embolization (PAE).

PAE is a minimally invasive IR procedure performed that shrinks the prostate to reduce lower urinary tract symptoms such as:

  • Frequent urination.
  • Slower urine stream.
  • Incomplete bladder emptying.

PAE has less risk, less pain, and a shorter recovery time than traditional surgery. And it doesn’t cause sexual side effects typically associated with invasive surgeries.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) results from the formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the:

  • Arms.
  • Legs.
  • Abdomen

DVT can lead to pain and swelling. Medicine is often the first line of treatment.

Extensive DVT may require IR treatment such as a thrombectomy. This minimally invasive procedure removes the clot in the veins and restores proper blood flow.

Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT)

HHT is a genetic disorder that affects about one in 5000 people, or 1.4 million people worldwide. It causes improper connections between arteries and veins.

Those with HHT can often experience pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (PAVM). Interventional radiologists can treat PAVM through embolization, by blocking off abnormal arteries with a catheter.

If you have HHT, the HHT Center of Excellence of UPMC offers screenings.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

OA is the most common form of arthritis. It’s a degenerative joint disease that can worsen over time and result in chronic pain.

Interventional radiologists can treat OA that occurs in the knee using geniculate artery embolization (GAE).

GAE is a minimally invasive procedure that aims to reduce abnormal blood flow around the knee joint to:

  • Minimize OA knee pain.
  • Reduce swelling.
  • Help manage OA symptoms.

Interventional radiologists perform GAE through a pinhole incision in the groin while you’re under twilight sedation. It typically takes one to two hours, and you often can go home the same day.

You can usually return to your normal routine within one to two days after the procedure.

Pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (PAVM)

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are blood vessel disorders where the connection between arteries and veins are abnormal. AVMs can occur anywhere in the body and may be congenital or acquired.

A pulmonary AVM (PAVM) occurs in the lungs, in which blood returns to the heart without enough oxygen.

Interventional radiologists can treat PAVM through embolization by blocking off abnormal arteries with a catheter. This helps increase oxygen levels throughout the body and eliminate PAVM symptoms like shortness of breath.

Uterine fibroids

Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas, are benign growths on or in the uterus. These benign tumors can cause significant symptoms including pain, cramping, frequent urination, and very heavy vaginal bleeding.

Interventional radiologists can treat fibroids using uterine artery embolization (UAE).

During UAE, they:

  • Place a small catheter into the arteries supplying the uterus.
  • Inject tiny particles into the blood vessels to partially reduce the blood supply to the fibroids.

UAE can help shrink the fibroids and improve symptoms.

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