SIR 2019 Was the Capstone of My Year As SIR President

The Society of Interventional Radiology’s Annual Scientific Meeting is a showcase of all interventional radiology (IR) can offer to the patient and medical communities. This year’s compilation of breakthrough research, on display in Austin, Texas, from March 23–28, provided an opportunity to explore the limitless protentional of the minimally invasive, image-guided medicine interventional radiologists provide.

The Real Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality

Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) were two of the hottest areas of development this year, promising to revolutionize care delivery.  

Dr. Kevin Seals and his team from the University of California, San Francisco, presented a new AI interface that allows IRs to use voice assistants, like Google Home or Alexa, to query reference materials, patient records, inventories and other information while working in the sterile IR suite without breaking scrub. This innovation gives IRs real-time access to accurate information in real time, without having to divert a tech, nurse or physician from patient care. The potential to make workflow more streamlined in the IR suite — and care even more patient-centered — is something I view with great enthusiasm.

Virtual reality, meanwhile, could mean a future of IR without as much radiology. Dr. Wayne Monsky of the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, presented a study exploring the use of VR to replace angiography while treating patients. This kind of innovation, though still in the pre-trial developmental stages, would fundamentally change how IRs practice, making percutaneous intervention faster and safer by reducing exposure to radiation for patients and practitioners. I hope I’m still practicing when the movie “Osmosis Jones” becomes a reality.

Improving and Saving Lives … Through a Pinhole 

Other studies focused on improving the lives of patients with specific conditions, using pinhole incisions, thin catheters, microscopic devices and advanced medical imaging.

Many women will experience pain, bloating and bleeding from uterine fibroids and many of them will undergo major surgery—such as hysterectomy or myomectomy — as a result. However, non-surgical uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) treats uterine fibroids while preserving the uterus and avoiding the long recovery from surgery. At SIR 2019, Dr. Jemianne Bautista-Jia and other researchers from Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles reported new evidence showing IR-performed UFE is safer and more effective than surgery, carrying fewer complications. This study is further evidence that increased application of UFE is in the best interests of the patient’s wellbeing.

IR is also a critical ally in life-saving stroke care. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, but few people have access to endovascular thrombectomy (EVT), a treatment for acute ischemic stroke that can be effectively performed by IRs. A multidisciplinary training model developed by Dr. Kelvin Hong and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, has shown that experienced IRs in a proctored situation can perform these stroke interventions as safely and effectively as a fellowship-trained neurointerventionalist and go on to independent practice of EVT. In this way, the model can expand the number of qualified EVT practitioners, ensuring very stroke patient in the U.S. who is a candidate for EVT has access to it.

Advancing Medicine Through Diversity

Science isn’t the only way SIR advances medicine. SIR has been working to promote diversity in the specialty, a key goal of my year as president. During my tenure, SIR launched a society-wide diversity and inclusion initiative, spearheaded by SIR’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, to make strides in five broad diversity goals: recruitment, data and benchmarking, health disparities, awareness and collaboration, and member education and resources.

For me, SIR 2019 was the capstone of my year as SIR president and seeing on display the celebration of and commitment to growing the number of women and minorities in IR was incredibly gratifying.

M. Victoria Marx, MD, FSIR, is the 2018–2019 President of the Society of Interventional Radiology.

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