What is a Radiologist?

What is a Radiologist?

Board-Certified Radiologist

The Doctor who uses medical imaging to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases

A Radiologist is a Board-Certified Doctor who treats and diagnoses medical conditions utilizing imaging studies such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasound. A radiologist can play an important role in the diagnosis and management of various disease states and injuries by using these imaging tools to check various parts of the body.

Radiologists can support your referring physician with valuable information regarding the health status of organs, tissues, and bones. After the evaluation process, the radiologist will discuss the results with you or directly with the referring physician and may recommend further treatment or additional testing.

Radiologists are doctors (M.D. or D.O.) with advanced medical degrees and training. The following is a representation of the years of education and training that a Radiologist has undergone.

Origins of the word RADIOLOGIST

RADIO from the Latin word ‘radio’ for ‘a ray of light’ + LOGY from the Greek word ‘logia’ which means ‘logic’ or ‘the study of’.

A Radiologist will treat an extensive list of conditions with the support of diagnostic imaging modalities, including:

Projection Radiograph: Images that are produced by transmitting X-rays through a patient. The image forms by depicting which X-rays are projected through the body. Mammography is an example of a radiograph and can be used to detect breast cancer.

Fluoroscopy: This procedure allows the radiologist to examine dynamic processes or blood flow in the veins and arteries. It allows for real-time imaging of structures with a radiocontrast agent. For evaluation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, for example, barium sulfate is administered, and it is then absorbed by X-rays.

Ultrasound: this diagnostic study utilizes sound waves or echoes to make an image. Due to the fact that ultrasound technology does not use radiation, it is considered very safe and is most commonly used to evaluate fetal development. The produced image with this method is called a sonogram.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: A PET scan uses a radioactive drug to show whether tissues and organs are functioning properly. PET scans are most often used to detect cancers, heart problems (like coronary artery disease), and brain and central nervous system disorders.  PET scans are differentiated from CT scans or MRI because they reveal “metabolic changes” in an organ at the cellular level.  These changes on a cellular level can then be detected by the PET scan at a much earlier stage than with either a CT or MRI.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: This scan involves the combination of X-ray images taken at different angles around the body with a computer that processes these depictions to create very detailed cross-sectional images of organs, bones, blood vessels and various soft tissues. CT scan images are more detailed than regular X-ray images and can be used to detect tumors and complicated bone fractures. CT scans may also be used for preventive medicine or screening for certain diseases such as colon cancer in those at higher risk.  

Nuclear Medicine: This type of imaging involves injecting, inhaling, or swallowing small amounts of radioactive material (radiotracers) to assess bodily functions. These tracers are tracked with specially designed cameras and a computer to create detailed images of the body. Nuclear medicine may be used to evaluate the heart (to visualize blood flow for example), lungs (scanning for respiratory or blood flow issues), liver, thyroid, gallbladder, brain, and bones for fractures or metastatic bone disease.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This type of imaging uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of tissues and organs in the body. MRI machines can produce 3D images to diagnose tumors, brain injuries, strokes, multiple sclerosis, disorders of the eye and inner ear, and aneurysms of cerebral vessels.

Finding the right physician is an important first step towards receiving the treatment that you need. Radiologists are trained to detect and diagnose a large spectrum of medical conditions with the assistance and interpretation of the various imaging modalities described above. These findings will support your referring physician or Primary Care Doctor (Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and OB/GYN) in your comprehensive medical evaluation, in order to offer you a wide range of treatment options that are tailored to your specific condition. Personalized plans with your primary physician in conjunction with the radiologist will help you to best manage your underlying condition or injury.


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