The Doctors, Doctor: What Do Radiologists Do?
Updated: Dec 22, 2021
When most people think of a radiologist, they imagine someone taking x-rays of various body parts. And while it’s true that radiologists do use x-ray technology, it’s just a very small part of the diagnostic toolkit available to them. Radiologists are doctors who diagnose and treat certain conditions using a wide array of imaging techniques and diagnostic tools to help pinpoint what is ailing a patient. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, brain tumors, many types of cancers, blood clots, arthritis, bone fractures or any number of other conditions, radiologists use state-of-the-art medical instruments and technologies to zero in on a patient’s inner health. Let’s take a look at the diagnostic imaging paths available to radiologists.
The most well-known form of treatment by radiologists is radiography, commonly known as x-rays. The earliest form of diagnostic imaging, radiography works by transmitting x-rays through a patient’s body and onto a detector where an image is created based on which rays pass through a patient and which rays are scattered. It is especially helpful to diagnose pneumonia, arthritis, and broken bones.
Computed Tomography (CT SCANS)
Computed Tomography or CT scans use x-rays along with computer algorithms to create a nuanced and accurate image of the body. Because of advances in CT technologies, such as faster scanning times and improved resolution, CT scans are used frequently today in radiology. CT scans are helpful in diagnosing urgent conditions like clots in the arteries of the lungs, cerebral hemorrhage, aortic wall tears, appendicitis, and kidney stones.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs):
Radiologists can diagnose with Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRIs, which use strong magnetic fields to align atomic nuclei. Then, radio signals are used to disturb the rotation of the nuclei. Next, the radio frequency signal is observed as the nuclei return to their original positions. This is what creates the MRI image. It is a very complicated process, but it produces the most hi-tech, soft-tissue contrasts of all of the imaging techniques that radiologists use. MRIs are a critical diagnostic tool for radiologists to help examine a patient’s brain, heart, musculoskeletal system, and other organs.
Medical imaging such as ultrasonography uses ultrasound waves to help radiologists visualize soft-tissue structures in the body. Ultrasounds provide three-dimensional reconstructions of tissues in real time. No ionizing radiation is used for ultrasounds, which makes them safer than other imaging techniques, but they can only be used for soft-tissue issues, such as artery damage, vascular diseases, internal bleeding, or examining fetuses in utero.
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