Treats Commonly Ignored Disease
William Rilling, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin Interventional Radiologist;
Director, Vascular/Interventional Radiology
Named one of the "Best Doctors in America®" 2004 by Best Doctors, Inc.
The same disease process that leads to heart problems also attacks blood vessels throughout the body, causing blockages and other symptoms. William Rilling, MD, explains how interventional radiologists can help keep your blood flowing.
Q. Define interventional radiology?
Interventional radiology is a subspecialty of radiology that involves the treatment of numerous disease processes with minimally invasive, image-guided techniques.
Q. How does it relate to heart care?
Among patients who have coronary or cardiac disease, the vast majority also have peripheral vascular disease [blocked arteries other than those in the heart or brain]. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is under-diagnosed and under-treated. Everybody knows the symptoms of a heart attack, but the average person at risk for peripheral vascular disease doesn't know what it is or what its symptoms are.
Q. What symptoms does PVD cause?
One of the main symptoms is pain — most commonly in the calf muscles — that occurs with exercise and that gets better when you rest. Other warning signs are sores on the feet and toes that don't heal and pain in the foot that doesn't go away.
Q. You mentioned "minimally invasive techniques." What are they?
We are able to open up blockages in arteries with small incisions in the skin using balloon catheters and wires and stents working from the inside of the blood vessel. Instead of the patient having an open bypass operation with a long recovery time, we can do these as an outpatient procedure.
Q. Have you performed any exciting procedures recently?
We had a patient with a non-healing ulcer on their foot caused by insufficient blood flow. The patient also had "rest pain," where basically the foot hurts all the time — they have to take narcotics around the clock just to deal with it.
We opened up some blockages in the calf region with a balloon catheter — and literally by the time the patient got off the table, their rest pain was gone. Over the next few weeks the ulcer gradually healed. Those are very gratifying cases.