Interventional Radiology

Leading hospital. Specialized care.

Interventional radiology at the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care performs a wide variety of minimally invasive procedures with the guidance of advanced technologies such as CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and ultrasound. Because certain procedures may require specialty materials available only at major medical centers, UNC is one of the region's leading hospitals for interventional radiology.

UNC is also home to several specialty clinics within interventional radiology, including the Vein Center, which treats venous disorders such as deep vein thrombosis.

UNC Interventional Radiology Services

CT/ MRI Diagnosis

For years, Computed Tomography (CT scans) Link opens in a new window and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)Link opens in a new window have helped physicians diagnose various ailments, such as knee injuries, brain tumors and complex bone fractures. CT and MR images help physicians plan surgeries, biopsy tumors, and drain abscesses. At UNC, the vascular-interventional group is now using Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA) and Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) to diagnose blood clots, aneurysms and the narrowing of blood vessels in the chest, abdomen and legs. In terms of diagnostic care for arterial maladies, this is state-of-the-art technology—computers and x-rays for CT, large magnets and radio waves for MR.

The key to CTA and MRA is that they are not surgical in nature like traditional angiograms, which is when a doctor inserts a catheter inside an artery, injects die and uses x-rays to create images of arteries. There is little risk in this traditional procedure, but complications could arise, such as a hematoma when the catheter is removed. For CTA or MRA, physicians use an IV, a contrast agent, and then CT or MR to create the image. This is quicker, safer, and allows physicians to make clear images so surgeons can more accurately measure the problem and better plan how to repair it. Then, after surgery and for the remainder of the patient’s life, physicians can use CTA or MRA to create images of the arteries to make sure the repair has remained intact.

Physicians in the vascular-interventional section at UNC Hospitals also use CTA and MRA to diagnose other conditions, such as congenital heart defects and aortic dissections, which is when a tear in the aorta causes blood to flow between the layers of the arterial wall. This is an extremely serious condition that demands quick diagnosis and then extensive follow-up.

CTA and MRA have also proven to be effective in diagnosing diseases that were unrelated to the patients' vascular system. While using CTA or MRA to image arteries and veins, physicians have occasionally found cancers in the chests and abdomens of patients. This results in quicker evaluation and treatment of these findings by the multidisciplinary teams at UNC.

Physicians Robert Dixon, Charles Burke, Joseph Stavas, and Kyung Kim work closely with UNC’s vascular and cardiovascular surgeons. Because they work so closely together, this creates a high level of collaboration that translates into better patient care.


Joe Stavas, MD
Robert Dixon, MD
Charles Burke, MD

Dialysis Maintenance

For the millions of people in the United States with non-functioning or poorly-functioning kidneys, dialysis can be a life-saving procedure. Quite often, though, the catheters, tubes, fistulas, or shunts used to deliver treatment can malfunction, putting the patient at risk.

The UNC Heart and Vascular Center offers same-day intervention for critical dialysis problems, and within 24 hours for non-emergency situations. All of the radiology physicians in the UNC Heart and Vascular Center are board-certified and specialize in interventional procedures.

Patients are admitted into a modern surgical center with a large waiting room and individual recovery areas. Every aspect of dialysis maintenance is offered, including on-site dialysis once the situation is corrected. For example, if a hemodialysis catheter becomes blocked or infected, it will be exchanged and the reason for the problem will be investigated. Procedures are performed with x-ray and ultrasound guidance to ensure the utmost in procedure success and patient safety.

If the situation requires further intervention, the UNC Heart and Vascular Center will refer the patient to specialists from nephrology, cardiology, surgery or other departments readily accessible on the UNC Health Care campus.

Most kidney disease is caused by diabetes, high blood pressure Link opens in a new window, or other insults to the kidneys.


Charles Burke, MD
Joe Stavas, MD
Robert Dixon, MD
Ari Isaacson, MD

Embolization Procedures

Embolization procedures are performed either to reduce blood flow to abnormal blood vessel areas, or to deliver medicines to various organs for treatment. They are commonly used to treat tumors in the liver, kidneys, muscles, or blood vessels in the brain and body.

Interventional radiology specialists at UNC work hand-in-hand with other physicians caring for the patient to discuss treatment options and coordinate care, particularly with specialists in oncology, pediatrics, trauma, and neurosurgery.

Many embolization procedures use special materials not widely available at most hospitals, and require specialized knowledge of cancer treatment protocols. Thus, the procedures must generally be performed at leading-edge medical centers such as UNC.

Embolization involves placing a catheter in the affected vessel using x-ray guidance, then feeding materials such as drug agents, radioactive beads, regular beads, or other particles to the exact location of the problem. Common malformations treated with embolization include uterine artery fibroids, liver and kidney tumors, Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (a lung malformation), and brain aneurysms.


Joe Stavas, MD
Robert Dixon, MD
Charles Burke, MD
Kyung Kim, MD
Ari Isaacson, MD

Malformation Clinic

Vascular malformations are abnormalities of the blood vessels: veins, arteries, lymphatics, or some combination. Most are benign conditions present at birth, but some may progress to create problems later in life.

The UNC Malformation Clinic is unique in that it’s the only clinic in the Southeast to bring together specialists from 14 medical departments—both pediatric and adult—on a regular basis to meet and discuss treatment options for patients with vascular malformations. All of the physicians are here on the UNC Health Care campus, allowing for a seamless referral from one specialist to another.


Hematology/Oncology: Stuart Gold, MD
Dermatology: Dean Morrell, MD
Plastic Surgery: John van Aalst, MD
Cardiology: John Cotton, MD
Pulmonary: George Retsch-Bogart, MD
GI: Katherine Freeman, MD
Neurosurgery: Matthew Ewend, MD
General Surgery: Daniel von Allmen, MD
Urology: Richard Sutherland, MD
Head and Neck: Carlton Zdanski, MD, Austin Rose, MD
Anesthesia: Robert Valley, MD, Eileen Tyler, MD
Genetics: Cynthia Powell, MD
Orthopedics (Pediatric and Adult): Bob Esther, MD

GI: Ian Grimm, MD
Genetics: John Evans, MD

VIR: Joe Stavas, MD
Pediatric Radiology: Lynn Fordham, MD


Because they occur in proximity to the body’s intelligence system, neurovascular conditions such as strokes, tumors, carotid artery disease, cerebral artery disease, brain arteriovenous malformations (AVM), and brain aneurysms present particular challenges to both patients and their treating physicians.

UNC specializes in least-invasive procedures to treat all types of cerebral and cerebrospinal disorders. We have one of the primary stroke centers in the region, with coverage available 24/7. In addition, neurovascular specialists at UNC have the longest experience of any program in the state in treating vascular lesions of the brain, spine, and carotid arteries.

Every neurovascular team member at UNC is highly specialized, and because patients have access to physicians in an array of specialties, they can be confident of being treated by the best available method, whether it’s medical management, radiation, or interventional procedures. The neurovascular program has dedicated vascular neurosurgeons, and the UNC Stroke Center has a dedicated stroke neurologist.

Treatment procedures at UNC include embolization of brain aneurysms, AVMs (an abnormal collection of malformed blood vessels), and tumors using coils, glue, or particles that block off blood supply to the abnormal area; carotid and intracranial stenting for opening narrowed or blocked areas of key blood vessels; intra-arterial stroke treatment; and many others. A fuller picture of treatment capabilities can be found at the website of the Society of Neuro-Interventional Surgery,

UNC participates in clinical trials of leading-edge neurovascular treatments, and was the first in the state to use new FDA-approved devices used in stroke treatment.

Tumor Oncology

In recent years, cancer treatment has evolved radically as minimally invasive (percutaneous) treatments have largely replaced traditional surgery as the treatment of choice for certain types of cancer. These minimally invasive techniques include ablation therapy, which uses temperature to kill tumor cells; and arterial treatments, which involve the direct injection of chemotherapy or radioactive beads into certain types of cancer cells through an artery.

UNC, home of the NC Cancer Hospital, is at the forefront of these minimally invasive techniques, with the full range of options and technologies available, and several decades of experience and expertise in choosing and applying the optimum treatment for each patient.

Minimally invasive techniques are now available at UNC for treating tumors of the liver (primary and metastatic), lungs, kidneys, bones, and soft tissue. In many cases, including the arterial treatment of metastatic liver cancer, UNC is one of the few hospitals to offer the treatment.

Cancer treatment at UNC is a collaborative effort, with physicians from multiple specialties working together to determine the best option for treatment. Oftentimes, cancer patients require more than one type of cancer therapy, which makes care at UNC especially beneficial because of the depth of experience and wide range of specialties available in one hospital.


Joe Stavas, MD
Robert Dixon, MD
Charles Burke, MD
Kyung Kim, MD

Uterine Artery Embolization

Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that grow around the uterus that can be a cause for pelvic symptoms such as pain or heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding. For the millions of women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, uterine artery embolization provides a minimally-invasive treatment option that is an alternative to surgery.

The UNC Heart and Vascular Center offers complete evaluation for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids. All of the radiology physicians in the UNC Heart and Vascular Center are board-certified and specialize in interventional procedures.

Patients with symptomatic uterine fibroids will undergo a full evaluation to determine whether they are good candidates for the uterine artery embolization procedure. All the potential treatment options are discussed to be sure that the patient is receiving the optimal treatment option.

The embolization procedure involves placing a catheter into the artery that provides the blood supply to the uterus and uterine fibroids. The arteries are blocked by injecting small beads into the small vessels supplying these benign tumors. The patient is typically observed in the hospital overnight and can expect a full recovery within 1-3 weeks.


Joe Stavas, MD
Robert Dixon, MD
Charles Burke, MD
Ari Isaacson, MD

UNC Comprehensive Vein Clinic

There are a number of ways venous pathology presents itself in patients. Some of the most common diagnoses are deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and varicose and spider veins in the legs.

The UNC Comprehensive Vein Clinic takes an individualized approach to patient care. Because optimal therapeutic results depend on the accuracy of the initial diagnosis, our board-certified vascular and interventional radiology (IR) specialists use state-of-the-art procedures in our Peripheral Vascular Laboratory such as ultrasound imaging and other non-invasive diagnostic modalities. Read more.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find specialists, make an appointment or learn more about preventing heart disease.

Open Access is a new physician referral service, created by the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care, which coordinates all admissions and transfers through a single phone call and guarantees immediate acceptance for patients. Please contact us to learn more or call 866-862-4327.

Related Locations