A radiologist is a physician who has at least 13 years of post secondary training. These doctors have trained for at least four years in the speciality of diagnostic radiology after obtaining his or her MD. The training includes the modalities of radiography (“plain” X-ray images), ultrasound, CT and MRI. Some radiologists may also obtain training in Nuclear medicine. Many radiologists perform an additional one-to-two years of sub-specialty training in a particular area of the body or a particular imaging modality.
Radiologists receive training in radiation physics and in techniques to minimize radiation dose during diagnostic and therapeutic studies.
Radiologists study the normal anatomy of the body as it is demonstrated by the various imaging modalities; they also learn the changes from normal anatomy that are produced by disease processes throughout the body. As such, the radiologist is aware of the strengths and limitations of each imaging modality, and is ideally qualified to recommend the most appropriate imaging modality for a particular health problem.
Interventional radiology uses imaging techniques to guide a number of therapeutic procedures that are performed by radiologists. These procedures are generally minimally invasive, meaning that they require only very small skin incisions, and produce minimal damage to normal tissue. Many of these procedures use blood vessels to gain access to certain tissues, and in fact many blood vessel problems can be treated by catheters that are introduced into the arteries or veins. Balloons and stents can be used to open blood vessels that have become narrow or blocked. Various devices can be introduced into blood vessels to intentionally block vessels to control bleeding or tumour growth. Some brain aneurysms can be treated by introducing coils through the arteries to fill the aneurysm; some aneurysms or tears of the aorta can be repaired with stents introduced through the arteries.
Until a few years ago it was routinely recommended that mothers not breast feed their babies for 24 hours if they had received an injection of iodine dye for a CT scan, or an injection of gadolinium for an MRI scan. It has recently been determined however that the amount of these substances that is excreted into breast milk is extremely small. Furthermore, the proportion of the substances that is absorbed by the baby from breast milk is also extremely small and poses no risk or discomfort to the baby. It is now recommended that mothers continue to breast feed their babies as usual following these procedures.
In general, if medical imaging is required during pregnancy, radiologists will seek to use other imaging modalities such as ultrasound and MRI that do not use X-rays in order to protect the baby. If after careful consideration it is determined that a procedure using X-rays will provide important information that is not provided by other imaging modalities, then this procedure will be recommended in the best interest of the mother and the baby. Precautions will be taken to minimize the radiation dose in these circumstances.
Radiology helps the diagnosis and treatment of diseases by providing us with images of what were looking inside of our bodies. It allows us to do this without having to cut into the body, which is a huge advantage that wasn’t available three generations ago.
Some of the conditions that radiology can help diagnose include infections or cancers as well as congenital abnormalities and inflammatory diseases.
Some of the various aspects of diagnostic radiology include plain x-rays, which many patients are familiar with from broken bones when they have to go to the emergency room and have an x-ray of their ankle or of their hand. There are other forms of radiology imaging including CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound and mammography.