Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Is A Radiologist?

There is a common misconception among patients about what a Radiologist does. Because of unfortunately similar names, many patients think that a radiographer (0r x-ray tech) is a Radiologist.

A radiographer (x-ray tech) typically undergoes between 2 and 4 years of training after high school. By contrast, Radiologists, or Radiology Physicians, are doctors who have undergone at least 13 years of specialized medical training.

For example, after high school, I completed 4 years of college, another 4 years of medical school. Then I completed ACGME-accredited training including one year internship in Internal Medicine, four years of Diagnostic Radiology residency and a one year fellowship in Musculoskeletal Radiology. If you're counting, that's 6 years of training even after completion of medical school.

It's interesting to note that the one year of internal medicine is a full third of the post-graduate training an Internist receives. Very few specialties--such as neurosurgery and cardiovascular surgery (typically one more year)--have longer training times. For Radiologists, such as myself, who perform minimally invasive spine procedures, we actually have the same number of years of post-graduate training that most orthopedic spine surgeons have.

Many doctors receive some limited training to interpret imaging studies in their training. Often, this training consists of a month or two of formal training, whereas Radiologists receive--at a minimum--48 months of formal imaging training. So while your OB/GYN may be able to read an ultrasound or your orthopedic surgeon may read your x-rays, a Radiologist is the doctor that is the most qualified physician to interpret any and all medical images (such as x-rays, MRI and CT) to diagnosis and treat medical disorders.

Interventional Radiologists (such as myself) also treat patients with minimally invasive procedures. Even Radiologists who don't directly treat patients (Diagnostic Radiologists) still play a critical role in your medical care. Radiologists are often able to detect problems early using imaging and are able to provide an accurate diagnosis to your physician.

It's certain that as the number of minimally invasive procedures and technologies grow, that Radiologists, such as myself, will continue to play an increasingly significant role in other aspects of your medical care.

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