Frequently asked questions about Radiologists

FAQ About Radiologists

What is a radiologist?

A radiologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who specializes in diagnosing and treating disease and injury by using medical imaging techniques.

What medical imaging techniques do radiologists use?

There are four main kinds of imaging techniques: X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.

  • X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation that is passed through the body to create a 2-D image of a body part or region. X-ray is especially useful in detecting muscle or bone problems.
  • Computed tomography (CT) uses X-rays and sophisticated computer technology to produce a series of 2-D images and/or to generate a 3-D image of a part of the body. CT scans are widely used for a variety of medical situations, such as detecting cancer, vascular disease, and aneurysm.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissue, bones, and other internal body parts. MRI is especially useful in detecting nervous system, nerves and spine.

What do radiologists actually do?

Radiologists play an important role in your health care in several different ways.

First, they act as an expert consultant to your referring physician (the doctor who sent you to the radiology department or clinic for testing). They will aid him or her in choosing the examination that fits your needs. Then the radiologist will assist by interpreting the resulting medical images and recommending further scans or treatments when necessary.

When referring doctors say they have reviewed the radiology scans and reports, they usually mean they have gone over the study with the attending radiologist.

It isn’t just diagnostic testing, either. Radiologists also treat diseases by means of minimally invasive, image-guided surgery (interventional radiology). Physicians also rely on radiologists to correlate medical image findings with other examinations and tests.

What kind of training and education has a radiologist completed?

Radiologists graduate from accredited medical schools, pass a licensing examination, and then go on to complete a residency of at least four years. A residency focuses on specific medical education in such fields as quality interpretation of medical imaging examinations and radiation safety. Radiologists also often complete a fellowship — one to two additional years of specialized training — in a particular subspecialty of radiology, such as breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology, or nuclear medicine. If you take into account four years of undergraduate education, the average radiologist has more than 13 years of training.

Do radiologists receive any type of certification?

Radiologists are usually board-certified by the American Board of Radiology or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology.

Can I ask to speak with my radiologist?

Absolutely! Your radiologist is available to you and your referring physician in choosing the proper examination, interpreting the resulting medical images, and in using test results to recommend further examinations or treatments.

Why should I choose to have a radiologist conduct my imaging procedures?

Radiological procedures are just like any other prescribed medical technique. That means they should only be conducted by appropriately trained physicians who have access to the best technology. Radiologists have four to six years of unique, specific, post-medical school training in radiation safety to 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.

Radiologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating disease and injury by using medical imaging techniques. They have completed at least 13 years of training, including medical school, licensing, a four-year residency, and often a one- to two-year fellowship of specialized training, and are at the forefront of imaging technology. At the end of the day, your radiologist is THE expert in medical imaging.