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BackTable / VI / Podcast / Episode #317

A Lifetime of IR Innovation and Curiosity

with Dr. Harold Coons

In this episode, guest host Dr. Peder Horner interviews Dr. Harold Coons about the history of IR, his contributions to the field, where the field is headed, and his advice for trainees and early career IRs.

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A Lifetime of IR Innovation and Curiosity with Dr. Harold Coons on the BackTable VI Podcast)
Ep 317 A Lifetime of IR Innovation and Curiosity with Dr. Harold Coons
00:00 / 01:04

BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2023, May 1). Ep. 317 – A Lifetime of IR Innovation and Curiosity [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

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Podcast Contributors

Dr. Harold Coons discusses A Lifetime of IR Innovation and Curiosity on the BackTable 317 Podcast

Dr. Harold Coons

Dr. Harold Coons is an interventional radiologist in San Diego, California.

Dr. Peder Horner discusses A Lifetime of IR Innovation and Curiosity on the BackTable 317 Podcast

Dr. Peder Horner

Dr. Peder Horner is a practicing interventional radiologist in the Denver, CO area.


Dr. Coons attended Pomona College, where he studied math. He then realized he didn’t want to be a nuclear scientist in the Sputnik era, which was where most opportunities were at the time. He decided to attend medical school at UCLA instead. As a medical student, he saw how happy the radiologists were, so he decided to choose it as a specialty. He had the opportunity to do a carotid arteriogram one day when everyone else was busy. He considered himself a maverick and someone who was always ready to take on a challenge.

He then experienced a moment that changed his life, when Czech radiologist Josef Rösch came to UCLA to visit from the University of Oregon where he was working with Charles Dotter. Dr. Coons saw Dr. Rösch direct puncture the spleen for a spleen portogram, and it took him only 15 seconds. This was incredible to him, and after that, Dr. Coons followed him around whenever he did procedures. They teamed up, Dr. Coons volunteering to be the nurse, because no nurses liked working with Rösch. Coons shaped catheters for him at a steam kettle, watched him do the first TIPS on a dog, and did the first arterial embolization with clotted venous blood under the direction of Dr. Rösch.

After his stint in the Airforce at a hospital in San Antonio, where he honed his embolization skills, he returned to San Diego. He was then working in private practice as the only IR in San Diego. One year, he heard about a meeting at Massachusetts General, so he submitted 6 papers on things he had been doing recently. All his papers were accepted, so he went to the meeting. At his first presentation, the leader of the meeting announced to the audience that he had accepted these papers to expose Coons as a fraud, because these techniques were nothing any academic had ever heard of. He did his presentation, and everyone in the audience, including the meeting leader, believed what he was doing was indeed real. He apologized to Coons and invited him to the speakers dinner, where he sat next to Kurt Amplatz and Plinio Rossi. Rossi convinced him to start publishing his ideas to get the credit he deserved, and to have something to show his children. Dr. Coons was forced to retire early in 1996 due to radiation exposure, but has been an avid innovator, educator, and international speaker since then. His passion for IR and excitement for the future of the field is contagious to all who have the pleasure of hearing him speak.

Disclaimer: The Materials available on are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for the professional judgment of a healthcare professional in diagnosing and treating patients. The opinions expressed by participants of the BackTable Podcast belong solely to the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of BackTable.

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