Radiologists are medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who have completed a 4-year residency in radiology. A radiologist may act as a consultant to another doctor who is caring for the patient, or act as the patient's primary doctor in treating a disease.
Following the residency, most radiologists and radiation oncologists become board-certified by the American Board of Radiology (for a medical doctor) or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (for an osteopathic doctor). Some go directly into practice, while others enter fellowship programs for additional training in a specialized area, such as the following:
Neuroradiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on the central nervous system, head, neck, and spine.
Pediatric radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on ways to create images of children's bodies, their organs, and internal structures.
Breast imaging. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on diagnosing breast diseases.
Cardiovascular radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on diagnosing diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including the arteries and veins.
Chest radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the chest, specifically the heart and lungs.
Gastrointestinal radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the digestive tract.
Genitourinary radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the organs of the reproductive and urinary tracts.
Musculoskeletal radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses on the diseases of the muscles and skeleton.
Emergency radiology. Diagnostic radiology that focuses diagnosis of trauma and nontraumatic emergency conditions.
Interventional radiology. A subspecialty of radiology that focuses on diagnosing and treating patients by using minimally invasive interventional techniques. These include imaging and treatment of blood vessels (angiography), biopsy procedures, line and tube placement, and fluid abscess drainage.
Nuclear radiology. A subspecialty of radiology that focuses on diagnosing and treating patients with tiny doses of radioactive material.
As a result of growing knowledge and levels of technology in the field, radiology has become highly specialized, as have most other medical and surgical specialties. The current trend is for radiologists to become specialized in a particular discipline. Examples are cardiology, which is the study and treatment of the heart, or neurology, which is the study and treatment of the brain and nervous system.
Diagnostic imaging can be done by the following professionals:
Specialized doctor, who can do basic imaging functions such as X-rays or ultrasounds. An example is an obstetrician who does a routine ultrasound on a pregnant woman. Subspecialist cardiologists often interpret CT or MR imaging.
Radiologic technologists, who are specially trained to do specific imaging techniques. They are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists or another registry. Radiologic technologists work under the direction and supervision of the radiologist.
Diagnostic imaging can be done in a number of settings, including:
Hospital-based radiology departments
Freestanding outpatient centers
Specialized centers, such as cancer, urology or sports medicine centers