What is a Radiologist?

A Radiologist is a specialized type of Doctor. Also known as: Neuroradiologist, Interventional Radiologist, Interventional Neuroradiologist, Diagnostic Radiologist.

A radiologist is a physician or medical specialist trained in obtaining and interpreting medical images. Images may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound. The physician uses medical imaging in addition to the traditional tasks of examining patients, obtaining medical history, diagnosing illness and prescribing treatment. Since radiology is used in conjunction with most medical specialties, radiologists have a comprehensive understanding of physical anatomy and the components of human health.

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What does a Radiologist do?

There are some subspecialties of diagnostic radiologists that include physicians who perform mammography and breast procedures, cardiovascular radiology, gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal radiology, and other specialties including those relating to pediatrics, emergency care, and oncology. This is a profession in very high demand as technological advancements have discovered more uses for medical imaging and techniques that are less invasive and more diagnostically accurate.

There are some branches of radiology that include radiology assistants and technologists and radiation therapists. These health professionals assist the physician in conducting procedures and making clinical observations. The radiologic technologist often operates the equipment and works directly with the patient to obtain images. In many countries outside the U.S. and Canada, the term radiologist actually refers to one of these assistant branches. The radiologist interprets the medical images created by MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and ultrasounds and must know how to operate all types of machinery used to obtain medical images. He or she also administers radioactive materials to the patient to obtain medical imaging. Radiologists working in larger hospitals or health centers often have a specialty.

In nuclear medicine, a radiologist injects radioactive tracers into the patient's bloodstream. These radioactive substances are then followed to study blood flow and the action of the nervous system. The results are used to screen for a range of medical conditions and to assess general physical health.

Once the results have been obtained and interpreted, these are taken to the patient's doctor and advice is offered. The doctor is responsible to make the final decision, based on the information provided. Much of the work involves interactions with other health professionals: the technologist, the oncologist and the physician.

Some radiologists perform minor medical procedures with interventional radiology. One such technique is amniocentesis, in which a needle is inserted into a pregnant woman's amniotic sac in order to study the health condition of the fetus. Another specialty is therapeutic radiology, which involves using radioactive agents to treat disease. This would include oncology in cancer treatment.

How to become a Radiologist

It is necessary to first become a physician. In Canada and the U.S. this requires pre-med studies at a university level, which usually involves four years of a Bachelor degree; a three or four year Medical Doctor degree, and post-graduate training in a specialty. Up to four years of residency training are also required. Programs are highly competitive and difficult to gain acceptance, so candidates must maintain high grade averages and meet other criteria.

Once an MD has been earned, an additional five to seven years of specialist training is required. This depends on whether it is a subspecialty in radiology, such as mammography, interventional radiology, or pediatrics is pursued. In the U.S. it is also necessary to pass the USMLE exam and board certification in radiology, obtain a licence, and earn hospital credentials and privileges.

Other skills that are required:

  • Excellent memory and grasp of anatomy

  • Excellent scientific and medical knowledge

  • Good understanding of technology, computers, and machines

  • Good vision and an eye for detail

  • Analytical abilities

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Further Reading

  • Who’s the Happiest?

    What specialty has the most satisfied physicians? Dermatologists take the cake, with radiologists and oncologists following.

  • What Is An Interventional Radiologist?

    Due to technology advances and high-quality imaging equipment becoming widely available, interventional radiologists are able to offer patients and referral physicians a host of treatment options.

  • What Are The Different Types Of Radiology?

    A radiologist, through extensive clinical work and related research, may also specialize in one or more radiology subspecialties...

  • Radiologist Salary

    Radiologists are physicians who earn a high salary from their profession. A radiologist is a medical doctor and has a higher degree of education and training, earning a higher salary than radiologic technologists and technicians.

  • Radiologist Career Profile

    A radiologist is a physician who reads and interprets digital images, or x-rays, of patients obtained through a variety of cameras, machines, and imaging equipment. The radiologist uses this information to help diagnose the patient and consult with the treating physician to develop a course of treatment.

  • How To Become A Radiologist

    Radiologists are physicians who use cutting-edge imaging technology to examine organs and tissues inside the body in gentle, noninvasive ways. Their expertise in physics, anatomy and the disease process allow them to diagnose injuries and illnesses so treatment can begin.

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