Health & Fitness

About the 3 Main Branches of Radiology

Radiology is a broad term used to refer to a medical specialization that uses imaging tools to diagnose or treat illnesses. Like a camera, radiology equipment captures a panoramic picture of the body, except instead of showing the exterior, it shows the interior.

Radiology Equipment

  • CTs (computed tomography)
  • MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • PETs (positron emission tomography)
  • Ultrasounds
  • X-rays

Radiologists go through several years of general training, followed by extensive clinical training

(radiology cases) to hone their specialties. The three main branches are diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, and radiation oncology. Each focuses on different methods of utilizing radiation for medical purposes.

Diagnostic Radiologist

A diagnostic radiologist practices non-invasive procedures and exclusively focuses on external scans. They receive in-depth training on how to interpret medical images, relying on imaging equipment to diagnose heart conditions, broken bones, blood clots, and diseases.

Imagine the following scenario as an example of this type of radiology in practice. You have a bicycle accident and hurt your leg. There is no visible evidence that you’ve broken it, but it’s still causing you a great deal of pain. When you go to the emergency room, a doctor takes an X-ray of your leg and sees that you have a hairline fracture in your tibia (shinbone). The X-ray prevented unnecessary exploratory surgery.

Interventional Radiologist

Like a diagnostic radiologist, interventional radiologists perform a variety of procedures to get images of the patient, but some of these scans are also internal. The work they do ranges from taking organ biopsies to dealing with tumors.

An example of this type of radiology in practice is angioplasty, where a balloon-tipped catheter is used to open blocked blood vessels. The doctor uses medical imaging to direct a catheter to the blockage. The balloon then inflates, which stretches the vessel open and improves blood flow. The catheter and camera combination prevented unnecessary open heart surgery.

Radiation Oncology

A radiation oncologist uses ionizing radiation to treat malignant (and some benign) diseases. When something is benign, it’s not harmful, whereas something malignant is.

A practical example of this type of radiology would be its use to treat cancer. Radiation is used to shrink the malignant tumor.

During the past few decades, researchers in the field of radiology have been making significant breakthroughs. CME (continuing medical education) efforts will help future radiology students who depend on radiology cases and radiology news for ongoing support.

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