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Interventional Radiology in the Imperial Valley


The field of Interventional Radiology has been in constant development for over fifty years, following the pioneering work of Dr. Charles Dotter, who is credited with being the first physician to perform angioplasty of an artery in the leg for peripheral artery disease. Since that time, the field has developed many new techniques to treat all sorts of diseases, including cancer treatments (and cures), stopping bleeding after a major trauma, dialysis maintenance, gastrointestinal interventions, women’s health, musculoskeletal interventions, and of course peripheral artery disease in patients suffering from chronic leg pain with risk of amputation. These are only a few of the topics in patient care that an Interventional Radiologist can be involved in, with many more treatments available for many different types of diseases.

Drs. Shahrouz Tahvilian and George Rapp are Imperial Valley’s only two Interventional Radiologists at Pioneers Memorial Hospital who are currently providing Interventional Radiology services to the county. Since late 2016, Pioneers Memorial Hospital has embarked on building a strong Interventional Radiology service for the people of Imperial County, with many of the services previously only available in San Diego now being performed right here in Brawley. Many patients can now be treated close to home without having to travel to San Diego for care.

One of the services that has recently made headlines with a New York Times Magazine article on women’s health is Uterine artery embolization for the treatment of uterine fibroids. Uterine artery embolization or UAE has been an integral part of the treatment of uterine fibroids for over 20 years. It is a procedure that has been developed and fine to continue and by interventional radiologists for the treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids in patients of any age range who suffer from chronic pelvic pain, severe bleeding, gastrointestinal and urinary symptoms and so on. It has developed into a viable alternative to the traditional treatment for uterine fibroids, namely, uterine hysterectomy.

In the past, patients suffering from uterine fibroids and chronic pain had no alternative but to undergo invasive hysterectomies with recovery times extending into several weeks. For young patients who seek to maintain a level of fertility, a hysterectomy became more than just a simple procedure, but a decision to remove their uterus and stop their symptoms or choose to keep their uterus but suffer from the debilitating symptoms associated with uterine fibroids. With the development of uterine artery embolization, a patient is able to keep her uterus while achieving symptomatic relief from her uterine fibroids. Recovery time is also significantly reduced, with an average return to daily activity of 7-10 days versus up to 3-6 weeks for traditional hysterectomy. These are only some of the advantages of uterine artery embolization, which is able to effectively kill a woman’s fibroids without significantly harming the uterus or ovaries.

The procedure can be performed on an outpatient basis, and is currently being performed at Pioneers Memorial Hospital. The procedure is relatively short, lasting around an hour or two. It is minimally invasive and involves a small catheter that is inserted through an artery in the groin. X-ray imaging is used to guide the small catheter into the uterine arteries within the pelvis itself without of her having to cut the patient open. Using x-rays and contrast, small beads are inserted into the artery supplying the uterus which then cut the blood supply to the uterine fibroids resulting in fibroid death. The uterus is able to recover quickly from the procedure and patient’s often spend less than one day in the hospital before being discharged home for a recovery lasting approximately 1 week. Most patient’s feel significantly better within the first month following the procedure and achieve near complete symptom relief within 3 months after the procedure.

Uterine artery embolization has become a viable alternative to traditional hysterectomy and is being used more often in patients who wished to maintain their fertility or those who do not wish to undergo invasive procedure where the uterus is removed. You can learn more about this procedure by contacting the Interventional Radiology Office of Drs. Shahrouz Tahvilian and George Rapp at Pioneers Memorial Hospital, located at 751 W. Legion Road, Suite 302 Brawley, CA 92227. You can also call the office directly to speak with one of the staff for consultation. Office (760) 351-4999.

Over the next several months, we will highlight many more of the treatments that Interventional Radiology provides and that are now being performed at Pioneers Memorial Hospital.

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