A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating medical conditions using imaging technology. As internal imaging was developed and advanced, there was an obvious need for experts with the training and experience to interpret the new tests. Radiology has changed a great deal since its start in 1895 when Wilhelm Roentgen took the first x-ray of his wife’s hand. Diagnostic tests, minimally invasive image-guided procedures, and radiation therapy in oncology may be performed or interpreted by a radiologist.
Radiologists begin their education in the same manner as other physicians. They obtain a bachelor’s degree followed by four years of medical school where they earn an MD or DO. Residency is a five-year program that varies depending on the specialty area of radiology chosen. This may be followed by further training of one or two years via a fellowship program that is even more specific to the doctor’s chosen area of study. Fellowship areas of study include MRI, neuroradiology, breast imaging, pediatrics, nuclear medicine (PET) and musculoskeletal. All told, a radiologist completes about 13 years of training after high school. In addition to this training, there are two exams to successfully take to become certified by the American Board of Radiology.
Some subspecialties of radiology must be chosen during the residency period. Since 2016, training was split into two tracks. The two main branches of radiology according to the American Board of Radiology are diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology.
An interventional radiologist (IR) is an expert in vascular disease diagnosis and treatment. An IR may participate in a residency program similar to a diagnostic radiologist and then focus on intensive interventional training for the fifth and sixth years. Or IRs may study in the same track for five years, then perform an interventional fellowship for years the sixth and seventh years.
Some of the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures performed by IRs include:
- Radiofrequency ablation to locate cancer cells using imaging and destroy them with heat
- Angioplasty that opens up blocked arteries with a small balloon inserted through a catheter; X-ray imaging is used during the procedure to locate the best placement in the artery
- A stent may be placed in an artery to ensure the artery continually allows blood to pass through in a separate procedure or at the same time as an angioplasty
For a diagnostic radiologist certified in diagnosing and treating disease through MRI, ultrasound, X-rays, and radionuclides, there are specialties that the physician may pursue with fellowship study. These include nuclear radiology and palliative care in addition to those listed above.
Although the path to becoming a radiologist is long and intensive, there is an increasing need for talented physicians who are comfortable at the forefront of diagnostics and image-guided procedures.
Independent Imaging of Palm Beach County, Florida, has served patients with experienced and caring radiologists and technicians for more than 30 years. If you need imaging and want the best care with the fastest turnaround time, call (561) 795-5558 for an appointment at any of our convenient locations.