What's a Radiologist?
Radiologist physicians are medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who specialize in diagnosing and/or treating diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as X-Rays, Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Fusion Imaging, and ultrasound. Radiologists graduate from accredited medical schools, pass a licensing examination, and then go on to complete a residency of at least four years of unique dedicated post-graduate medical education in, among other topics:
- Appropriate performance and interpretation of quality radiological and medical imaging examinations
- Radiation Safety/Protection
- Radiation effects on the human body
These physicians often complete a fellowship - one to two additional years of specialized training in a particular subspecialty of radiology (breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology, nuclear medicine, etc).
Radiologists are usually board certified by the American Board of Radiology (for an allopathic doctor) or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (for an osteopathic doctor); an indication of a high level of training, and demonstrated excellence in the field.
What Do Radiologists Do?
Radiologists perform important physician services. These doctors typically:
- Act as consultants to the referring doctor by aiding him/her in choosing the proper examination, interpreting the resulting medical images, and in utilizing test results in your care. When referring doctors—the doctors who refer patients to the radiology department or clinic for testing—say they have reviewed radiology’s scans and reports, what they usually mean is that they have gone over the study with the attending radiologist. Radiologists confer with the referring physician to recommend further appropriate examinations or treatments when necessary.
- Treat diseases by means of radiation (radiation oncology) or minimally invasive, image-guided surgery (interventional radiology).
- Correlate medical image findings with other examinations and tests.
- Direct radiology technologists (personnel who operate the equipment) in the proper performance of quality exams.
These physicians are at the forefront of imaging technology; spearheading the development and implementation of CT, MRI, PET and Fusion Imaging as well as minimally invasive procedures such as endovascular treatment of aneurysm and tumors, percutaneous biopsies, and pinpoint radiation therapy.
How Radiologists Ensure Quality and Safety in Medical Imaging
Radiological procedures are medically prescribed and should only be conducted by appropriately trained and certified physicians under medically necessary circumstances. Radiologist physicians have four to six years of unique, specific, post–medical school training in radiation safety and ensure the optimal performance of radiological procedures and interpretation of medical images.
Other medical specialties mandate far less imaging education, ranging from a few days to a maximum of 10 months.
Unqualified providers who utilize medical imaging procedures may needlessly expose patients to radiation and/or radiation levels that could be unduly hazardous. It may also result in misdiagnosis or problems that are not diagnosed at all.