Have you ever had an X-ray or radiologic test or procedure? In 2006, about 377 million Americans had diagnostic and interventional radiologic tests. Another 18 million underwent nuclear medicine examinations.
Do you understand how these tests and procedures are performed? Do you know how many different professionals work in the field of radiology? Have you ever wondered what does a radiologist do?
Keep reading to learn about radiology, the people who work in radiology and what a radiologist does.
History of Radiology
About 123 years ago, Wilhelm Roentgen, a German physics professor, discovered the X-ray. For the first time, physicians could get a look at the inside of the human body. This technology created a new medical specialty called Radiology.
What is Radiology?
Radiology is now a well-established branch of medicine. It uses imaging technology in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. X-ray imaging includes, but is not limited to, computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, and radiography.
Having a basic X-ray test is quick and painless. X-ray beams pass through the part of your body that is being examined. The body absorbs different amounts of X-rays based on the density of the body’s structure.
Dense parts, such as bone and metal, look white on the X-ray. Areas that contain air look black. Fat and muscle appear as different shades of gray.
Sometimes, you will have a contrast medium such as iodine or barium put into your body. This increases the details of the image.
X-rays are often used to look for fractures or infections in bones and teeth. Joint X-rays can show arthritic changes.
Special X-ray tests measure the density of bone to check for osteoporosis. Other bone X-rays can help in the diagnosis of bone tumors.
X-rays of the chest are used to look for diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, or lung cancer. They can also show signs of heart failure or problems with the blood flow to the heart and lungs. Mammograms look for breast abnormalities and cancers.
Radiology tests of the digestive tract often use a contrast medium. This provides a better picture of the esophagus, stomach, colon, and small intestines. These tests can also look for foreign objects that may have been swallowed.
Types of Professionals That Work in Radiology
Today’s radiology department includes many health care professionals. Each person contributes to the diagnostic or treatment process.
Radiographers operate the radiographic equipment. They also position patients for tests.
Proper radiographic positioning is vital to creating a clear X-ray image. You can find out more by clicking on this link.
Another part of their job is to ensure radiation safety for themselves and the patient. You will even find radiographers in veterinary medicine.
CT Technologists operate advanced computerized X-ray machines. This produces a detailed cross-sectional picture of the structures inside the body.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers operate ultrasound imaging equipment. This machine uses high-frequency sound waves that bounce off of internal organs and structures to create an image. The physician uses these images to diagnose and treat medical conditions.
Mammographers operate specialized radiology machines that produce images of the breast tissue. The image must be clear to ensure adequate screening, diagnosis, and treatment. These images are often read by a radiologist or an oncologist.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist put radioactive drugs into the patient. Gamma cameras are then used to look at the distribution and concentration of the radioactive drug. This allows the radiologists to make a diagnosis.
These specialists may also operate the positron emission tomography (PET) scan to create 3-D images of body parts.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)Technologists control radio waves and powerful magnets. They use computers to process the information and produce an image of the body.
Special Procedure Technologists help physicians perform procedures to clear blockages in blood vessels.
Radiation Therapists provide radiation treatment to patients as prescribed by the physician. These professionals often work with radiation oncology for the treatment of cancer.
Radiology Nurses provide specialized and routine nursing care for patients while they are in the radiology department. They may start IVs, give medications, and perform other nursing duties.
What Does a Radiologist Do?
A Radiologist is a medical doctor who completed 13 years of training. They may specialize in radiation oncology, pediatric radiology or interventional radiology. After completing an internship, residency, and passing their licensure exam, they may become certified by the American Board of Radiology.
The practice of radiology encompasses two different areas. The Radiologist may work with diagnostics or interventions.
Diagnostic Radiologists focus on reading different radiology images. They work with the patient’s physicians to:
- Diagnose injuries or illness
- Monitor your progress during treatment
- Screen for illness such as breast cancer, colon cancer, lung or heart disease
Physicians rely on the Radiologist’s interpretation of diagnostic images to create a plan of care for their patients.
Interventional Radiologists use special imaging, such as CT, ultrasound, MRI, and fluoroscopy to provide guidance during procedures. For example, they may assist a physician with inserting catheters, wires, or other medical instruments into the body. They also help guide various biopsy procedures.
These radiologists can often diagnose and treat conditions without the use of scopes or open surgeries. Interventional radiologists treat conditions such as:
- Arterial and venous blockages
- Uterine fibroids
- Back pain
- Liver problems
- Kidney problems.
Some procedures may require some sedation but are usually performed as outpatient procedures.
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