A branch of medicine in which doctors see the inside of the body by employing different kinds of radiation, radiology uses a range of imaging technology. The treatment or diagnosis of illnesses depends on the kind of imaging technology employed. The purchase of this imaging technology is in most cases carried out by the radiologic technologist or the radiographer. A common subspecialty of radiology is called interventional radiology, and it entails minimally invasive medical processes being guided by imaging technology.
What is Radiology?
Radiology is comprised of seven different imaging modalities for use in diagnosis. These are called plain or projection radiography, fluoroscopy, interventional radiology, CT scanning, ultrasound, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and nuclear medicine. Each different imaging modality uses different procedures to arrive at a diagnosis for the patient. Each form of imaging technique also has different pros and cons that doctors ought to fully explain to their patients.
- Radiology and Imaging Sciences: Description of patient activities at the National Institutes of Health. Includes links to different types of radiology services.
- Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine: Information about different departments of radiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Includes description of radiology services.
- American College of Radiology: Link-rich resource that explains what radiology is all about. Also updates visitors on the latest news in the field.
History of Radiology
Radiology can trace its roots back to Germany in the year 1895 and a doctor by the name of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. A physicist who grew up as the only son of a merchant, Roentgen is today considered the father of radiology primarily because of his efforts on November 8, 1895. On that date, he succeeded in both producing as well as detecting electromagnetic radiation inside of a range of wavelengths that are better known today as X-rays. While Roentgen was examining the external effects from vacuum tube technology, he noticed that an electrical discharge actually went through them. This prompted him to conduct more experiments until he was able to take his first X-ray, that of his wife’s hand.
- William Conrad Roentgen’s Analysis on X-Rays: A historical paper from the father of radiology himself. It is from 1895, as William Conrad Roentgen read it before the Wurzburg Physical and Medical Society.
- Department of Radiology: From the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, this page discusses the radiology department at that facility. There is also a directory of their staff.
Radiologist Job Description
The duties of a radiologist are complicated and require quite a good degree of specialized attention to detail. A few examples of just some duties of this position involve clinical services, clinical rotations in radiology, nuclear medicine and ultrasound, and even opportunities in collaborative research involving clinical investigations and oncology research. At times, depending on your seniority position as a radiologist, you may also be asked to spend a good amount of time in teaching situations, especially instructing graduate students, professionals and residents. The division of job duties as a radiologist can break down to approximately 70 percent clinical services and 30 percent research.
- FAQ for Radiologist Assistants: From the Washington State Department of Health comes a list of frequently asked questions that radiologist assistants may have. Good for those interested in learning the duties of that profession.
- Mayo Clinic Radiography Career Overview: Description of what radiologists use to do their jobs. Even gives estimates of how much can be earned at this job.
Radiology is often competitive, so applicants need to be close to the top of their medical school class and also possess high board scores. The number of years of study for a radiologist is very demanding and quite long. A diagnostic radiologist is obligated to complete 13 years of overall education that comes after high school; this includes four years of undergraduate education, four years attending medical school, and another five years of further post-graduate education. First, a radiologist-in-training spends his first post-graduate year in various rotations, then takes up a four-year diagnostic radiology residency, and follows that up with an oral and written board examination conducted by the American Board of Radiology (ABR).
- American Journal of Roentgenology: Examines whether radiologist training comes in handy in ensuring effective performance in CT colonography. Gives results of the study in specific detail.
- The Best Degrees: Talks about at great length the requirements for radiologist training. It also refers to the length of time certain training will last.
Projection radiography is the production of two-dimensional images employing x-ray radiation and can also be known as plain film radiography. Radiologic technologists are the professionals who most commonly perform these radiographic examinations. Projection radiography can be utilized to successfully image nearly every part of the entire human body, which is why it is the elemental foundation of modern medical imaging. Dental radiography as well as mammography are viewed as variations of projection radiography.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Discusses necessary software requirements in order to ensure the best projection radiography images. Extensive resource with a lot of text to read.
- Radiology: Quickly talks about a detector for a scanned projection radiography. Very technical and full of statistics.
Fluoroscopy can best be thought of as an imaging process usually employed by doctors to get real-time moving pictures of the internal structures of a person. A fluoroscope is the means of getting the real-time, moving pictures, and the fluoroscope is made up of an X-ray source and also a fluorescent screen between which a person is put. New fluoroscopes allow for the images to be both played on a monitor as well as being recorded. Due to the use of X-rays in this procedure, the possible benefits to the patient must always be weighed against the potential jeopardy that is present to the patient.
- University of the Health Sciences: Succinct definition of fluoroscopy along with an example of imaging derived from this procedure. Good for quick reference.
- The Ohio State University Medical Center: Comprehensive overview of what fluoroscopy is and how it is performed. Educates patients on what to expect under such procedure.
A subspecialty of radiology, interventional radiology uses image guidance to perform procedures that are minimally invasive. At times, said procedures are done for diagnostic reasons, while at other times, the procedures are performed in order to treat patients. The images are utilized to guide the interventional procedures of the interventional radiologist, who usually employs narrow tubes called catheters and needles. These interventions work to reduce infection rates as well as the length of hospital stays, which is primarily due to the minimization of the physical trauma to patients.
- Division of Interventional Radiology: Brief overview of the procedures and staff at the Medical University of South Carolina. Gives descriptions of the center’s different interventional radiology departments.
- Radiology Info: Great resource of links leading to information about the duties of an interventional radiologist. Contains a Glossary of Terms for maximum comprehension.
A medical imaging method that uses tomography established by computer processing, CT scanning is complex. It uses digital geometry processing to create a three-dimensional picture of an object’s insides from a large succession of two-dimensional X-rays, which in turn were derived around one axis of rotation. The imaging that CT scanning creates can be manipulated through windowing; windowing is used to show different, bodily structures based on their capability to block X-ray beams. The utilization of CT scanning has grown in popularity over the last few decades.
- International Atomic Energy Association: Provides information to patients on how to stay safe from the radiation of CT scanning. Very extensive and exhaustive suggestions.
- North Shore Medical Center: Brief description of medical center’s procedures for CT scanning. Includes picture so patients understand exactly what awaits them.
Ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique that doctors use for looking at body structures like tendons, joints, muscles, internal organs and vessels for potential lesions or pathology. Ultrasound is recognized by the public most frequently when it is used for obstetric sonography during pregnancy. Ultrasound is viewed as much safer than CT scanning, nuclear medicine and radiology, which is why it is so attractive as an option for obstetrical imaging. Ultrasound as a medical imaging procedure has developed only in the last 30 years.
- MedlinePlus: Important information about the basics of an ultrasound. This includes what the procedure is and what occurs during such a procedure.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Exhaustive government site that details all you need to know about an ultrasound. This includes exactly what it is, what its benefits are, and also what its risks are.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An imaging technique for the purpose of visualizing internal structure with great detail, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) does not use ionizing radiation of any kind. MRI is quite useful in imaging the heart, brain, cancer cells and muscles due to the excellent contrast it provides between the various, soft tissues of the body. This is one, primary reason why MRI is a superior form of radiology in some cases, relative to CT scanning or a traditional X-ray. As a technology, MRI is quite new, with the first image being created in 1973 and the technology being first used on people in 1977.
- National Cancer Institute: Brief but reliable definition of what an MRI is and does. Complete with a diagram to illustrate the process.
- National High Magnetic Field Laboratory: Site that provides a very detailed explanation of the MRI process. Includes diagram to better explain the process.
Nuclear medicine is a type of medical imaging which utilizes radionuclides and depends on radioactive decay for treating and diagnosing illnesses. These radionuclides are mixed with other chemical compounds by the name of pharmaceuticals to create radiopharmaceuticals. Once put into the body, these radiopharmaceuticals are effective at localizing to particular cellular receptors or organs. Therefore, nuclear medicine is adept at imaging the actual disease process in the human body instead of only seeing the physical changes.
- U.S. Department of Energy: Overview of what the Department of Energy does regarding its nuclear medicine program. Excellent to get a basic understanding of the concept.
- United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Detailed explanation of what nuclear medicine is and how it affects people. Includes many links for further reading.
Teleradiology is the transfer of MRIs, CT scans and X-rays of patients from one place to another for the goal of both consultation and also interpretation. The biggest benefit of teleradiology is the improvement in patient care, as it empowers radiologists to provide their expert services away from a given location. In theory, teleradiology permits expert radiologists to be on hand and available at any hour of the day. When a necessary subspecialty is sought after, like a neuroradiologist or an MRI radiologist, teleradiology becomes particularly helpful as those kinds of doctors mainly work only during daytime hours and in large cities.
- UC Davis Center for Health and Technology: Description of how UC Davis provides radiology services. Also talks about the kinds of services that are included in teleradiology.
- University of Iowa Department of Radiology: Describes what teleradiology is in a brief overview. Also gives contact information.