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Specialty Description

What is a radiologist?

A radiologist is a physician who uses imaging methodologies to diagnose and manage patients and provide therapeutic options. Physicians practicing in the field of Radiology specialize in Diagnostic Radiology, Interventional Radiology, or Radiation Oncology. They may certify in a number of subspecialties. The board also certifies in Medical Physics and issues specific certificates within each discipline.

What does an interventional radiologist do?

An interventional radiologist combines competence in imaging, image-guided minimally invasive procedures and periprocedural patient care to diagnose and treat benign and malignant conditions of the thorax, abdomen, pelves, and extremities. Therapies include embolization, angioplasty, stent placement, thrombus management, drainage, and ablation, among others. Training includes a minimum of three years of Diagnostic Radiology and two years of Interventional Radiology, leading to primary certification in Interventional Radiology/Diagnostic Radiology. An interventional radiologist also may specialize in one of the following subspecialty areas:

  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Neuroradiology
  • Nuclear Radiology
  • Pain Medicine
  • Pediatric Radiology

Radiology is one of the most technologically advanced fields in medicine. Since the discovery of the X-ray in 1895, radiology has been at the forefront of minimally invasive medical imaging.

Medical imaging procedures include:

  • Plain film or digital X-ray imaging

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans

  • Fluoroscopy

  • Breast imaging (including mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI and digital imaging of the breast)

  • Nuclear medicine procedures (including positron emission tomography [PET] and single-photon emission computed tomography [SPECT] scans)

  • Imaging of the colon (including virtual CT colonography and barium enema)

  • Interventional radiology (both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures using catheters)

  • Ultrasonography (using high-frequency waves to produce an image for medical analysis)

A radiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and injury using medical imaging technologies. Radiation oncologists treat diseases through the medical use of ionizing radiation. Interventional radiologists use minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat disease.

Radiologists often find problems early by interpreting results of imaging studies or correlating medical image findings with other examinations and tests. They also provide diagnoses to referring physicians and direct radiologic technologists in the proper performance of quality procedures. In addition, they act as expert consultants to the referring physician by aiding in the choice of proper imaging techniques, interpreting medical images, generating reports, and using test results to recommend further tests or treatments.

How to become an interventional radiologist?

To be successful as a radiologist, one must have the right training, knowledge and experience. Radiologists graduate from accredited medical schools, pass a licensing examination, serve a one-year internship, and complete a specific radiology-based residency of at least four years of unique postgraduate medical education residency.

Radiologists also often complete a fellowship, which consists of one to three additional years of specialized training in a particular subspecialty of radiology such as breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology or interventional radiology. In addition, radiologists are usually board-certified by the American Board of Radiology or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology. Typically, radiologists are creative thinkers with a high aptitude for math and science who like the challenge of diagnostic imaging.

A radiologist’s work-life balance varies considerably depending on several factors. Radiologists working in a hospital setting are typically available most of the workday. Most radiology practices provide coverage to the hospital at night on site or on call. Teleradiology can reduce the amount of time a radiologist spends providing direct night coverage at the hospital but still requires the radiologist to interpret the exams concurrently. Many radiology groups rotate coverage, and some radiologists prefer working nights. In addition, some radiology groups work in networks to provide coverage to multiple hospitals in an effort to reduce the night-call burden. Radiology remains  a good option for physicians seeking to balance the needs of work and personal time.