Five ways to improve interventional radiology

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According to a new survey of European interventional radiology (IR) departments published in Insights into Imaging, five steps should be taken to improve provision of IR procedures in Europe.

While the use of IR procedures is growing as an alternative to surgery, the field is not as healthy in Europe as it should be, the report, written by Lorenzo Derchi (Genoa, Italy) and Afshin Gangi (Strasbourg, France), summarises. The survey was a collaboration between the European Society of Radiology (ESR) and the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE).

The survey was commissioned in May 2017 in an effort to understand how European radiology departments on their use of IR practices in their facilities. A total of 98 radiology department heads completed the survey, making up a response rate of 8.3%.

The researchers found a number of challenges facing European interventional practices, all of which had a common theme: not enough interventional radiologists are being trained to meet the growing demand.

Based on the results, the authors recommended five steps to improve the provision of interventional radiology in Europe:

  • All acute care hospitals should prioritise offering 24-hour IR coverage. In Europe, about 60% of radiology departments can cover interventional emergencies, a percentage that the study authors believe is too low. If a hospital does not have enough interventionalists on staff for 24-hour coverage, hospitals within regions could form networks to share resources.
  • IR should be promoted to medical students early in their training as a viable career option. Research in the USA has shown that far fewer medical students were exposed to IR compared to diagnostic radiology; this can hamper recruitment to the specialty. Only by attracting more trainees can IR overcome the personnel shortages that are restricting its broader use.
  • More women must be recruited into IR. While about half of diagnostic radiologists at European hospitals are women, they make up a “small minority“ at facilities dedicated to IR, the researchers found (they note this is also an issue in the USA). They attributed the gender imbalance to concerns about call responsibilities and the lack of role models, which they believe could be counterbalanced by increasing the number of women in interventional faculty and chair positions.
  • Radiology should recognise the full clinical role of IR. This could be through the allocation of enough day-case beds to accommodate interventional procedures, for example, or through recognition of the administrative responsibilities involved in the full episode of care for patients treated with interventional procedures, such as patient examinations.
  • Diagnostic radiologists should take a more active role in IR. This could include actions such as recommending referrals to interventional colleagues in radiology reports when appropriate and sharing knowledge with diagnostic radiologists about interventional procedures.
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