- Radiology is a field of medicine that uses different medical imaging equipment to help doctors diagnose and treat diseases.
- Radiology is important in the medical industry because doctors from various medical sectors, like surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, infectious diseases, and oncology, rely on radiologists to give an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
- Radiologists use medical imaging procedures like CT, MRI, PET, and mammography to help referring physicians diagnose health issues and treat patients.
- Becoming a radiologist requires extensive training and education. It takes roughly 10 years to complete education requirements and to receive certification.
- Radiology subspecialties, like hospice and palliative medicine, neuroradiology, nuclear radiology, and pain medicine, require additional examination and training.
Radiology and Its UseRadiology or diagnostic imaging is a branch of medicine that relies on medical imaging to support doctors in diagnosing diseases and delivering treatment. Radiology images are images captured using various imaging techniques, such as X-ray radiography and nuclear medicine. Medical professionals use radiology to detect a wide range of health issues, including broken bones, heart defects, blood clots, and gastrointestinal conditions.
Radiology vs. RadiographyRadiology is a branch of medicine that analyzes images from various modalities, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-rays, and ultrasounds. The discipline uses medical images to diagnose and treat various health conditions. Radiology should not be confused with radiography, an imaging technique that uses radiation to see the inside of the body or industrial components. Radiography is mostly used in the medical field and industrial field. In medicine, a radiographer uses various medical imaging equipment to view internal body parts. Radiography uses medical images from several modalities, like radiographs, CT, MRI, ultrasound, and mammogram. In industrial radiography, radiation is used for the non-destructive diagnosis of machines, buildings, or other industrial components. Industrial radiography relies on X-rays, gamma rays, or other forms of radiation to find weaknesses in industrial structures.
Types of Radiology SpecialtiesThere are various types of radiology specialties. According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), some of the most well-known medical specialties under radiology are diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, and radiation oncology.
Diagnostic RadiologyDiagnostic radiology is focused on diagnosing and treating diseases through the use of medical imaging. Diagnostic radiologists use X-rays, ultrasound, electromagnetic radiation, and other imaging equipment for accurate detection of abnormalities in the body. A diagnostic radiologist can take up cardiovascular radiology, pediatric radiology, and interventional subspecialty of radiology.
Interventional RadiologyInterventional radiology combines both minimally-invasive, image-guided procedures and periprocedural patient care for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Interventional radiology procedures include angiograms, angioplasty, fluoroscopy, and biopsies. Studies discovered that interventional radiology procedures could be as effective as invasive procedures like traditional surgeries. Interventional radiology procedures are guided by real-time imaging to ensure precision and detect abnormalities. With interventional radiology, doctors can treat patients without the need for surgeries that require lengthy recovery time.
Radiation OncologyRadiation oncology uses ionizing radiation and other modalities to treat serious illnesses, like colon cancer and breast cancer. Aside from ionizing radiation, radiation oncologists use CT, MRI, ultrasound, and hyperthermia as additional interventions to support treatment planning and delivery.
Importance of RadiologyMedical professionals from every sector of the healthcare field use radiology to diagnose and treat various health issues. According to research, surgeons rely on radiology for pre-operative planning and image-guided interventions. A 2014 study also showed that interventional radiology played a crucial role in the daily care of sick children. According to the research, radiology helped critically-ill children suffering from liver disease, neonatal tumors, and vascular malformations. Radiology is also used by obstetricians to monitor the health of unborn babies. Obstetric ultrasound uses sound waves to capture images of a baby inside a pregnant woman. Medical imaging can also be used to know the state of the mother’s uterus and ovaries. Conventional radiology is also used to evaluate small bones and small joint trauma. Aside from conventional radiology, multidetector computed tomography and cone beam computed tomography are also used by trauma surgeons. Radiology can also be used in controlling the spread of infectious diseases, like COVID-19 or the disease caused by the new coronavirus. According to a study, modern imaging techniques are crucial in the assessment of patients with suspected infection. The study concluded that a positron emission tomography (PET) scan with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) imaging could be useful in managing patients with osteomyelitis, infected prostheses, fever of unknown origin, and AIDS. Oncologists also use radiology to treat cancer patients. According to research, radiation therapy could slow down the reproduction of cancer cells. However, radiotherapy also has adverse side effects. Although side effects differ for every condition, the most common side effects include fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
How Is Radiology Done?Radiologic technologists use a wide range of medical imaging procedures to know the state of the human body.
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Nuclear medicine
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
What Injuries and Diseases Can Radiology Detect?Radiology can be used to diagnose a wide range of diseases and injuries. A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to capture images of the organs, bones, and other tissues. It can be used to detect stroke, pulmonary embolism, appendicitis, and bone fractures. MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets that temporarily realign water molecules inside the body. Radiographers use radio waves to detect faint signals, which are used to form cross-sectional MRI images. An MRI scan can detect aneurysms of cerebral vessels, eye and inner ear disorders, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord disorders, tumors, and brain injury caused by trauma. A PET scan uses a radioactive drug or a tracer to detect diseases before it shows up on other imaging tests. The radioactive drug may be injected, swallowed, or inhaled. A PET scan can evaluate and detect cancer, heart disease, and brain disorder.
Roles and Responsibilities of a RadiologistRadiologists are medical professionals who use imaging technology to help referring physicians diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. Before radiologists discuss the diagnosis with the referring doctor, they interpret and analyze the medical images. By choosing the appropriate exam and directing radiology technologists in performing quality exams, radiologists serve as expert consultants to medical doctors. Radiologists not only analyze and report on images. They also recommend treatment and request additional tests when needed. Radiologists can perform or instruct radiographers of diagnostic imaging procedures. They can also provide treatment to patients following diagnosis. Diagnostic radiologists use several imaging procedures to view the body’s organs and assess or diagnose the patient’s condition. Diagnostic radiologists can also specialize in the following subspecialties:
- Breast imaging
- Cardiovascular radiology
- Chest radiology
- Emergency radiology
- Gastrointestinal radiology
- Reproductive and urinary systems or genitourinary radiology
- Head and neck radiology
- Musculoskeletal radiology
- Pediatric radiology
How Does One Become a Radiologist?After completing four years of undergraduate education, individuals interested in joining the radiological society have to take a year of clinical internship. Clinical practice is followed by four-years of medical school. Applicants have to be a part of a ranking and matching system organized by the National Resident Matching Program before taking up a residency program. Residency programs for radiologists are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Most residency graduates pursue a subspecialty fellowship. The following are some of the subspecialty fellowship the applicants can take:
- Abdominal radiology
- Body imaging/cross-sectional imaging
- MR imaging
- Cardiothoracic radiology
- Cardiovascular radiology
- Emergency radiology
- Musculoskeletal radiology
- Nuclear radiology
- Pediatric radiology
- Vascular and interventional radiology
- Women’s imaging
Subspecialty DescriptionsSome diagnostic radiology subspecialties take more than a year to complete. A medical student taking the following subspecialties need specialized training and additional examination.
Hospice and Palliative Medicine
The Beginning of RadiologyRadiology began with Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s discovery of X-rays in Germany. On November 8, 1985, Röntgen, a mechanical engineer, developed an energized, lightproof cathode ray tube that glows when placed a couple of feet away from a fluorescent screen. The engineer discovered that the screen was responding to unknown rays transmitted throughout the room, which he called X-rays. After his experiment, other people began to develop radiographic images that started as a burst of ionizing radiation and created a contrast image on film.
ConclusionRadiology is a field of medicine that relies on medical imaging to diagnose diseases and deliver treatment. Radiology is important because healthcare professionals from every sector of the medical field rely on radiology for diagnosis and treatment. Radiologists are medical professionals who use imaging technology to help physicians diagnose and treat various medical issues. These professionals undergo extensive medical training before they receive certification to practice radiology.
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