Interventional radiology is a medical specialty that concentrates on minimally invasive diagnostic and remedial procedures. Dr. Charles Dotter was named the "Father of Interventional Radiology" and nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1978 when he saved an elderly woman from losing a foot to gangrene by inserting a catheter to relieve a blocked artery. What would have ordinarily led to an amputation resulted in ihis patient walking away from the hospital on both feet. This field of radiology has since pioneered many groundbreaking procedures, including angioplasty, occlusive coils and self-expanding stents. Radiologists are trained and licensed physicians, while radiology technologists are their assistants.
Associate degree programs are the most common pathway to becoming an interventional radiologic technologist, though some schools offer certificate and bachelor's degree programs as well. Certificate programs are the briefest, taking between six and 12 months to complete, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Licensure and certification requirements are handled at the state level and ûtherefore vary. However, most require students to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.
Getting to Work
Radiologic technologists use diagnostic imaging procedures to give radiologists a picture of a patient's insides. They prepare patients for procedures, which may include protecting areas that don't need to be examined, positioning patients and equipment, and injected dyes into a patient's veins to detect anomalies. They also assist with complex procedures such as angiography, inserting stents into blocked veins and arteries, removing gallbladder stones through needle insertion, and deliberately blocking blood flow through embolization to prevent such things as hemorrhaging or tumor growth. The focus of each procedure is the avoidance of invasive, traumatic surgery.
Most radiologic technologists work in hospitals, whether at the state, local or private level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Others work in doctor's offices, outpatient centers and diagnostic laboratories, while 2 percent work for the federal government. Technologists work full-time during regular daytime hours, although emergency situations may call for after-hours work.
Statistics and Outlook
Radiologic technologists, including those specializing in interventional procedures, averaged $54,620 a year in 2012, according to O*Net Online, which works out to about $26.26 an hour. The industry is expected to see 95,100 job openings through the year 2020, a job growth that is considered faster than average. Though hospitals are expected to continue to be the largest employer, more opportunities will open in clinics and private offices as technological advances lead to increased outpatient procedures.