What is a Radiologist?

If you have ever needed to get an x-ray, chances are a radiologist was the type of healthcare professional who took a look at the x-ray image. Besides looking at x-rays, radiologists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosing and treatment of diseases that are found by using all types of medical imaging technology. Some of the medical images they use include computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Radiology Training

Since radiologists are medical doctors, they must earn a medical degree. Some choose to earn a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Before this however, they must have graduated from an accredited medical school. After attaining their medical degree, they must pass a licensing exam, do a one-year internship, and complete a four-year residency in radiology. After their residency, they need to enter a fellowship program and choose a sub-specialty in one or more areas of radiology.

Radiology Sub-specialties

Some examples of sub-specialties that a radiologist might choose to work in includes the following:

  • Breast Imaging – diagnoses and treats diseases of the breast by using mammography, ultrasound, and breast MRI.
  • Chest Radiology – diagnoses and treats diseases of the heart and lungs by using x-rays, CT scans, and MRI.
  • Gastrointestinal Radiology – diagnoses and treats diseases of the gastrointestinal or digestive tracts by using fluoroscopy, x-rays, and ultrasound.
  • Musculoskeletal Radiology – diagnoses and treats diseases of the skeleton and muscles by using x-rays, CT, ultrasound, and MRI.
  • Nuclear Radiology – diagnoses and treats diseases by using trace amounts of radioactive material and gamma imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET) to take images of the skeletal system and most organs in the body to detect cancer and other conditions.

Other sub-specialties include:

  • Cardiovascular Radiology
  • Emergency Radiology
  • Genitourinary Radiology
  • Head and Neck Radiology
  • Neuroradiology
  • Pediatric Radiology
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Radiation Oncology

Along with radiologists, other people who work in radiology but who aren’t medical doctors include radiologic nurses, technicians, and radiologist assistants, according to BioMed Central.

How Radiologists Diagnose Diseases

When a physician suspects disease or injury, they sometimes have to refer their patient to the radiology department. This is where tests get performed that allow medical professionals to see the inside of the body. While the radiologist isn’t normally the one administering the test (this is usually done by a technician or assistant) they are the one who reads the test. Some of these tests include x-rays, CT, MRI, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, and image-guided biopsies. Once all of the medical images have been taken and other tests have been completed, a radiologist can put all of the information together. Together with the patient’s referring physician, a diagnosis can be made. After an accurate diagnosis, treatment can then begin. A radiologist can treat certain diseases either through radiation or by image-guided surgery that is usually minimally invasive.

Related Resource: Become an Ultrasound Technician

As you can see, radiologists are an important part of the medical team. Since a radiologist can see inside the body after a test has been performed, they are often the first medical professional to see something abnormal when a physician refers a patient their way.