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Imaging and radiology

Imaging and radiology


Interventional radiology; Diagnostic radiology; X-ray imaging

Radiology is a branch of medicine that uses imaging technology to diagnose and treat disease.

Radiology may be divided into two different areas, diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology. The field of therapeutic radiology, which uses x-rays to treat cancer, is now called radiation oncology.

Doctors who specialize in radiology are called radiologists.

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    Diagnostic radiology helps health care professionals see structures inside your body. Using these images, the radiologist or other physicians can often:

    • Diagnose the cause of your symptoms
    • Monitor how well your body is responding to a treatment you are receiving for your disease or condition
    • Screen for different illnesses, such as breast cancer or heart disease

    The most common types of diagnostic radiology include:

    • Computed tomography (CT), also know as a CAT scan (computerized axial tomography)
    • CT angiography
    • Fluoroscopy with scanning, including upper GI and barium enema
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
    • Mammography
    • Nuclear medicine, which includes such tests as a bone scan, thyroid scan, and thallium cardiac stress test
    • Plain x-rays
    • Positron emission tomography, also called PET imaging or a PET scan
    • Ultrasound


    Interventional radiology uses imaging to help guide the doctor when inserting catheters, wires, and other small instruments and tools into your body.

    Doctors can use this technology to diagnose or treat conditions in almost any part of the body, instead of needing to directly look inside of your body through a scope (camera) or surgery.

    Some of these conditions include cancers or tumors, blockages in your arteries and veins, fibroids in the uterus, back pain, gallstones and gallbladder problems, and thyroid disorders.

    The doctor will make no incision (cut) or only a very small one. You rarely need to stay in the hospital afterwards. Most patients need either conscious sedation (medicines to help you relax) or spinal or epidural anesthesia.

    Radiologists who perform these types of procedure receive 1 or 2 extra years of training after they have finished medical school and basic training in radiology.

    Examples of interventional radiology procedures include:

    • Angiography or angioplasty and stent placement
    • Catheter embolization
    • Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty
    • Needle biopsies of different organs, such as the lungs and thyroid
    • Radiofrequency ablation
    • Breast biopsy, guided either by stereotactic or ultrasound techniques
    • Uterine artery embolization
    • Feeding tube placement
    • Injecting cancer treatments at the site of the tumor

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Review Date: 3/22/2012  

Reviewed By: Ken Levin, MD, Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Good Shepard Hospital, Allentown PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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