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News | Aug. 23, 2023

Interventional Radiology at WAMC, saving lives with a minimal invasive treatment

When patients come to Womack Army Medical Center (WAMC) with life threatening injuries, the trauma team comes together with the best life saving techniques for that patient. Interventional Radiology (IR) is one of those specialties that has and continues to play and important role in saving lives at this level III trauma center. Despite their efforts in saving lives with this minimal invasive treatment, the IR team at WAMC credits their success to the positive environment they have created for themselves and their patients.

Interventional radiologist (IR), Col. Kirk Russell and his team are dedicated professionals who specialize in performing minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat various medical conditions. According to Russell, IRs are closer to specialized surgeons than they are to radiologists, but they have all the necessary training that bridges both disciplines. Their expertise lies in using advanced imaging techniques, such as ultrasound, CT scans, and fluoroscopy, to guide their procedures and deliver precise treatment directly to the affected area.

“If you had blood clots in your legs, for me to stop them from going to your lungs. I could insert a catheter, deploy it, take everything out and you wouldn't even know that I gained access,” said Russell. “We go through arteries and veins. It has several advantages; you don't have to make incisions like in the olden days when the surgeon had to open everything up, so the recovery is quicker. That’s very crucial, we can use very small devices to get where we need to.”

Russell said the use of these small devices gives them the flexibility to take care of cases like urological problems. If people have kidney stones, they can gain access to the kidneys to place tubes and decompress the kidneys.

One of the key factors contributing to their success is the positive environment they have cultivated within their team. Their team consists of an interventional radiologist, three IR technologists and three nurses. Nurse, Crystal Locklear shared how their work dynamic has been instrumental in taking care of patients as they communicate in such a manner that no team member is left unaware of the day’s activity. Locklear said, this makes for a smoother process and a warm environment for patients.

“It is a rewarding experience to see patients leave happy, and safe,” said Locklear.

They foster a culture of collaboration, respect, and open communication, allowing everyone to contribute their ideas and expertise to ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients. This positive atmosphere not only boosts morale but also enhances teamwork and efficiency.

“We have a blend of nurses and technologists,” said Russell. “The nurses are not only trained to take care of critical patients, but they also administer medications that allow us to perform conscious sedation to make the patients comfortable. They're extremely vital, they follow the patient from the beginning to the end of the procedure.”

“We huddle in the mornings to understand what we'll need throughout the day, and Russell teaches us, his aspect because he wants us to know what he sees,” said Natascha Faircloth, Interventional Radiology nurse supervisor. This has created such a bond with everybody here and a positive environment.”

Russell’s technologists assist him with the procedures. He describes them as his right hand, his extra eyes, hands, and ears and he listens to their suggestions.

“The fascinating thing about interventional radiology, there isn't just one way of doing things,” said Russell. “You can have a single problem with several different ways of addressing it. We always talk through the case and brainstorm how we are going to accomplish it.”
Russell sees his staff and patients as part of a larger family. This perspective helps create a sense of trust and compassion, both within the team and with the patients they serve. By treating everyone like family, they have been building strong relationships based on empathy, understanding, and a shared goal of improving health and saving lives.

JB King an embolism survivor treated by the IR team credits them for saving his life.

“There are not enough works to describe that department, how pleasant, upbeat, thorough and professional they are,” said King. “Every breath I take I think of them, because they enabled me.”

Russell expresses a special appreciation for serving service members. These individuals, who have dedicated their lives to serving their country, often require specialized medical care due to the unique challenges they face in the line of duty. Russell and his team take pride in providing top-quality care to these service members, helping them recover from injuries and get back to their important roles in the military.

Overall, Russell and his team's dedication to a positive environment, good communication, and a family-oriented approach are crucial elements in their success. Through their expertise, compassion, and commitment, they save lives and improve the well-being of their patients, including those who have and continue to serve in the military.
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