A session at the recent Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) annual scientific meeting (4–9 March, Phoenix, USA) put the focus on the landscape of interventional radiology (IR) in Latin America. Members from the affiliate societies Sociedad Iberoamericana de Intervencionismo (SIDI), which is region-wide and the Brazilian Sociedade Brasileira de Radiologia Intervencionista e Cirurgia Endovascular (SOBRICE) took to the podium to speak about IR in their respective countries, and SIR’s International Division councillor Constantinos Sofocleous (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA) shared with delegates the initiatives that SIR has implemented to strengthen IR worldwide, including in South and Central America.
“Our main goal is to empower interventional radiologists, wherever they are, wherever they practise,” Sofocleous stated, including strengthening local IR societies under that umbrella. “Hopefully we are able to create targeted training programmes,” he expressed, as well as “increasing awareness of IR not only among referral services, but also patients”. Citing an example of an SIR initiative geared towards fulfilling these goals, Sofocleous spoke about the Give Back Project, from which Latin America has benefited in the past. “We approve a project that an affiliate society has identified as an important programme for their country, in a specific disease or field,” the speaker explained. “In partnership with SIR, certain faculty members will go and create a programme for the local population, with local faculty.” An example of this project’s work was the symposium on uterine fibroid embolization in September 2019 in El Salvador, Sofocleous shared, labelling it a “great success” that “needs to be replicated […] now we are post-pandemic”.
In addition, Sofocleous listed the “exciting” SIR International Scholar Programme, which takes place every year to provide “outreach to young people interested in IR”. These efforts, alongside others from SIR, will help “raise our voice at a governmental level”, Sofocleous concluded.
Another speaker in the session was SOBRICE President Gustavo Pipoca Andrade (Hospital da Restauração, Recife, Brazil), who walked the audience through the current state of Brazilian IR, before highlighting the challenges his country faces when it comes to improving recognition of the role it can play in healthcare. “We have 24 [IR training] centres certified by SOBRICE,” Andrade relayed, emphasising that this homogenisation of the qualification took place in 2002. In terms of numbers of practising interventional radiologists, the speaker admitted that there is “a long way to go” in Brazil—they comprise only 3% of radiologists.
Regional differences make for “completely different realities” in terms of healthcare, Andrade went on to underline—under 10% of those living in the north of Brazil have private health insurance, whereas in the wealthier southeast region, for example, this figure is over 30%. Showing the audience a heatmap of interventions performed across the country, Andrade demonstrated these are concentrated in the higher-population areas, with the number of training centres distributed accordingly too.
“As a society we have tried to introduce IR everywhere in Brazil,” Andrade asserted. “We have almost everything—yttrium [Y]90, reversible electroporation, hybrid suites—much like the USA”. Yet, awareness of IR is not as good as it could be, he admitted. With this in mind, SOBRICE has launched several campaigns to improve understanding of IR procedures. These include holding social media livestreams during which patients can ask interventional radiologists questions and an annual course for medical students. Andrade homed in on the importance of helping students understand that IR is more than “stopping bleeding or treating a tumour”.
The speaker proceeded to clarify that “in Brazil, we do have industry—we produce wires, catheters, sheaths, coils, filters, stents, and prostheses.” There is also a SOBRICE-published, Portuguese-language collection of IR textbooks available to interventional radiologists and trainees, Andrade added, before leaving the audience with the fact that “finally, in the big centres, we are established as a clinical service, but beyond the big centres, we are not known yet and that is the biggest challenge”.