Radiologist Job Description

A Radiologist’s Job Description

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Radiologist Job Description

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Radiology is a specialized branch of medicine that uses imaging technologies to detect, diagnose and treat disease. Radiologists will use technology like x-rays, ultrasound, CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and PET (position emission tomography) to create medical images. They have very specialized training which allows them to interpret the various images, and through their findings, they are able to advise physicians regarding specific treatments or further examinations.

In some settings, a radiologist will have very little interaction with patients on a day-to-day basis. Technicians will handle much of the hands-on work of talking to patients, giving instructions and running machinery. Only after the images are acquired will the radiologist step in to interpret them. From there, he will discuss his findings with the patient’s doctor and give his advice. Some radiologists feel that this lack of patient interaction is one of the biggest downsides to a career in radiology.

Those who do prefer a more hands-on, interactive role may choose instead to specialize in interventional radiology. Interventional radiology involves performing minor medical procedures (typically in a specialized field) that require the guidance of radiology equipment. For example, if a pregnant mother needs special tests performed, an interventional radiologist may perform an amniocentesis by carefully withdrawing a small amount of amniotic fluid through a needle with the guidance of an ultrasound machine.

Radiologists have a fairly wide variety of specialty fields that are open to them through further clinical work and research, and many do choose to go into a sub-specialty career. Those specialty fields include:

Head and Neck Radiology

A head and neck radiologist uses MR and CT scans extensively to investigate and diagnose complex tumors and other pathologies of the head and neck. They will often use very advanced technologies such as MR spectroscopy, fluoroscopy, angiography, and perfusion imaging to examine the central nervous system. Head and neck radiologists will work closely with neurosurgeons and head and neck surgeons to diagnose and treat disease.

Cardiovascular Radiology

A cardiovascular radiologist will be specially trained in cardiovascular imaging, primarily using MRI and CT scans to create images of the heart and blood vessels. Some cardiovascular radiologists will also perform specific procedures – such as image-guided biopsy – that require their expertise in imaging technology.

Breast Radiology

This subspecialty devotes the radiologist to the imaging and diagnosis of breast diseases. A breast radiologist will perform mammograms, breast ultrasounds, biopsies, sentinel lymph node mapping, and wire/seed localization.

Chest Radiology

Radiologists in this sub-specialty will utilize x-rays, CT or CAT scans, MRI, ultrasounds and mammograms to detect and diagnose various diseases of the chest. These typically include respiratory issues and heart diseases. A chest radiologist may also be called upon to perform lung biopsies or to drain fluid from the chest.

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Gastrointestinal Radiology

Gastrointestinal (GI) radiology deals with studies of the gastrointestinal tract, solid abdominal viscera, the peritoneal cavity, and the abdominal wall. In this field, a radiologist will use CT scans, ultrasound, MRI, barium studies and other techniques to study the organs of the gastrointestinal systems. GI radiologists will use the various technologies at their disposal to detect and diagnose conditions and diseases such as carcinomas, ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease.

Genitourinary Radiology

In this sub-specialty, a radiologist will work with disorders or diseases of the urinary tract and reproductive organs. The radiologist will be involved in procedures such as biopsies, removing kidneys stones, and removing uterine fibroids. In this line of work, he will use tools like x-rays, CT, CAT, and MRI scans.

Musculoskeletal Radiology

This field deals with the imaging of joint and bone abnormalities, including those caused by trauma as well as those due to orthopedic or rheumatologic conditions. X-rays have been the traditional tool of this specialty field, though radiologists now have much more at their disposal, including CT and MRI scans, as well as fluoroscopy, which allows physicians to take moving images of the insides of a patient.


This sub-specialty focuses on the central and peripheral nervous system, including the head, neck and spine. Radiologists in this field will primarily work with CT and MRI to diagnose and characterize abnormalities.

Nuclear Radiology

This specialized field involves the imaging, diagnosis and treatment of patients with the use of minute doses of radioactive material. A nuclear radiologist will work with the skeletal system and nearly all organs in the body. He will use gamma imaging, PET and PET/CT to detect and diagnose abnormalities in the various systems of the body.

Radiation Oncology

A radiation oncologist works specifically with cancer patients and uses radiation therapy as the main form of treatment. He may utilize radiation therapy on its own, or it may be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or surgery. The radiation oncologist will form a team with surgical and medical oncologists, as well as other physicians to combat various forms of cancer. In some cases, radiation therapy will also be used palliatively, simply to provide relief for patients with incurable cancers.

Emergency Radiology

Emergency radiology is a field that is on-call 24/7/365. Radiologists in this field provide constant, immediate consultations for patients in emergency medical centers. They may deal with illnesses and injuries ranging from very minor to life-threatening, such as vehicle accidents or gunshot wounds. Thus, they will need to quickly translate x-rays, CT, CAT, MRI scans, and ultrasounds so that doctors can provide immediate treatment.

Pediatric Radiology

Specialists in this area will usually practice in children’s hospitals or pediatric wings. Pediatric conditions are typically harder to diagnose, thus very high quality images are required. Pediatric radiologists need to be able to make children comfortable and provide a sense of peace and security. This, in fact, is one of the essential elements in pediatric radiology. Radiologists will often wear colorful scrubs, and will need a unique ability to soothe and treat children who may be in great pain. Children are also more radio-sensitive than adults, thus, special care and precautions must be taken to protect fetuses, children and adolescents.

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