Radiologists are physicians who work with diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays and CT scans, or treatments that involve radiation. At first glance, these two fields may not seem related. However, many modern imaging techniques involve the use of radiation. There are also several different types of radiologist, including those that specialize in images and those that provide radiation treatment.
Diagnostic radiologists use medical imaging for diagnosing disease. Imaging procedures (such as x-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs) use energy in the form of sound or radiation to create pictures of internal organs and structures.
Interventional radiologists use imaging for guiding certain minimally invasive medical procedures. A good example of this is the use of x-ray to guide catheters during angioplasty and the placement of stents in narrowed arteries.
Nuclear radiology involves the use of radioactive medication to diagnose or treat disease. Nuclear radiologists use medication that contains very small, safe amounts of radioactive material that can be detected by special machines. This allows them to gather information about how well the body is working. They can also use radioactive medications to treat certain illnesses, such as an overactive thyroid.
Radiation therapy or radiation oncology is the branch of radiology which uses radiation to treat cancer. The radiation is given at a higher dose, but it is very specifically targeted so that it only affects cancer cells.
Radiation, whether used in imaging or for treatment, is a powerful tool. Radiologists have the training and knowledge to use it safely.
What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a test that produces a uniquely detailed and high-quality picture of the inside of the body. It is done using a strong magnetic field along with radio waves. A computer then analyzes the signals given off by hydrogen within the tissues of the body and uses those signals to develop an image. It can be done on any part of the body: the brain, chest, heart, joints, abdomen, or extremities.
MRI uses no radiation, is painless, and is extremely safe. However the machine can be loud while it is running, and patients who don’t like the feeling of being in confined spaces might feel uncomfortable. MRI might also not be appropriate for patients who have certain types of metal inside their bodies such as pacemakers, shrapnel, or metal aneurysm clips.
When you arrive for your MRI, you will usually be instructed to remove your clothing and be given a gown to wear. Because MRI works using a strong magnetic field, it’s very important that you remove all metal objects from your body, including watches, earrings, hearing aids, and hair clips. Some tests require an injection of a contrast dye to help specific parts of the body show up better in the image. You will lay down on a table and usually be offered earplugs or headphones to cancel the noise from the machine. Then the table moves you through a ring, tube, or tunnel shaped machine that makes thumping, hammering sounds. It’s important to stay as still as possible to get as clear an image as possible. An MRI can take as little as 15 minutes or more than an hour, depending on the area being examined.