In the Age of Information, businesses and organizations are finding new ways to spread their message to consumers. The Internet allows for more than just printed news to alert the masses of breakthroughs in technology, medicine, politics etc.
When a few interventional radiologists had a breakthrough in new, non-surgical technology to treat some of humanity’s worst diseases and conditions, they decided to make a video series to spread the message.
A Human Condition
The scene is set in a hospital room. Margarita sits in a hospital bed, her leg raised, her blackened, gangrene toes exposed. Margarita’s daughter sits next to her, holding her hand and trying to calm both of them down. They aren’t stupid, they know the doctor is about to suggest amputation.
Dr. Gregg Alzate is the interventional radiologist assigned to treat Margarita’s blocked blood vessels; the reason for her gangrene. The television show that depicts them both is about to display how Dr. Alzate treats her illness without any sort of invasive surgery and without any amputation.
Without a Scalpel
The program we’re describing is called “Without a Scalpel”, a documentary series about several patients undergoing minimally invasive, image-guided procedures otherwise known as MIIPs. It’s also about the interventional radiologists who treat those desperate patients.
Cases of gangrene almost always end in amputation, if only to halt the spread of deadly infection to other, more delicate body tissues and organs. In Margarita’s case, Dr. Alzate is using an angioplasty catheter to perform this particular brand of MIIP. If his efforts are successful, he will be able to unblock the vessels and save Margarita from a painful, life-altering amputation.
Trying to explain interventional radiology is no easy task, which is why co-creators Susan Jackson and Isabel Newton have endeavored to do so through video. Susan is a former interventional technologist with an MBA and marketing background, and Isabel is an interventional radiologist.
The organization that Newton and Jackson have started is called the Interventional Initiative. Its goal is to draw attention to the amazing advantages of MIIPs through engaging user-friendly education tools. Their website, videos, and podcasts of personal stories like Margarita’s are just the beginning. They also intend to take advantage of the amazing power of social media by using things like Facebook and Twitter.
Microcosms of Anatomy
Jackson and Susan explain it quite poetically, in fact. “Traveling through the blood vessels like highways, they (interventional radiologists) penetrate the microcosmos of human anatomy, offering big solutions without big incisions, expanding the realm of the possible, giving hope where there was none.”
In layman’s terms, a more basic explanation might be that interventional radiologists use medical images such as X-rays to see inside the body. These specialized doctors can treat major maladies through a pinhole and see what’s going on inside via modern imaging techniques.
Using this remarkable new technology, the specialists can treat diseases and conditions that affect the brain, lung, chest, liver, gallbladder, stomach, intestines, kidneys, back, bones, legs, and reproductive system. They can treat fibroids in women, enlarged prostate in men, and infertility in both.
Jackson added that there are many advantages to MIIPs, the majority of them involve the noninvasive nature of the treatments. “These procedures often offer lower complication rates and a shorter recovery time. They get people back to their normal lives quicker.” Her co-creator added that people leave with merely a Band-Aid.
“You can cure cancer in an hour or less and take somebody who is completely incapacitated and make them walk again,” Newton explained to Radiology Today. “It is nothing short of small miracles.” She is right of course, the ability to treat something as severe as gangrene or cancer without the added trauma of surgery is truly an amazing thing, even today.
At the end of the first episode, we see a large auditorium full of cheering people and Margarita is standing among them. She is well enough to attend the ceremony, which is one of great importance to her and her family, because on that day, she became an American citizen.
Out of Business
Seeing stories like Margarita’s displayed for the whole world to see is undoubtedly going to make surgeons nervous. Indeed, many surgeons are already worried that skilled and noninvasive MIIPs may put them out of business. As remarkable as this new technology is, however, it’s not about put an end to conventional surgery anytime soon.
Dr. Newton likened surgery and MIIPs to a toolbox. “Everything can’t be solved with one tool; you can only treat people by having the full complement of tools in your toolbox,” she says. Jackson added that minimally invasive procedures may sometimes act as a complement to surgery or vice versa. “It’s not an either/or kind of thing,” she says.
Connecting with the Public
The video series showcases compelling, human stories of suffering and survival to members of the public. Newton explains it as people connecting with these stories in a palpable way. Margarita’s tale is particularly poignant, especially for the 29.1 million people with diabetes in the U.S., many of whom worry about blood flow problems and possible amputation.
The episodes are as follows, Episode 1: Bloodless. It focuses on the stories of three women who suffer from blocked blood vessels. The second episode, entitled The Cancer Snipers, features cancer patients who have undergone MIIPs to great effect. The third focuses on conditions that affect women’s health and features procedures like uterine fibroid embolization.
A Face to the Industry
Until now, interventional radiologists have been working in the shadows, trying their best to save lives. Without a Scalpel is attempting to change that by bringing them into the public eye. It’s also attempting to inform patients about the options available to them. As self-serving as this may seem on the part of the co-creators, it is purely altruistic.
The Best Choices
It’s true that better recognition will invariably bring more business towards interventional radiologists, but that was never the point. “We do this as a nonprofit,” explain Jackson and Newton. “It is entirely a public service-type mission because patients actually do worse when they don’t understand their options.”
Newton, who also serves as program director for the research residency, conducts lectures at medical schools about MIIPs as well. Thanks to her erudition on the subject and the documentaries, medical students are leaving school with a much better understanding of the new technology available in patient care.
A Medical Mystery
Before they began their campaign of information, many people, patients, and physicians alike, didn’t really know about MIIPs as treatment options. Hospital executives were similarly clueless. Thanks to their efforts, Newton and Jackson’s message has been positively received. More people are aware of the alternative treatments available to them, and that’s what matters.