What is Radiology? | Diagnostic Imaging Introduction

Radiology uses imaging technology to create and map images of the human anatomy.

These images are captured using x-rays, ultrasound devices, MRIs, PET scans, and computed tomography.

Nevertheless, several other technologies capture snapshots and 3d renders of the human body for analysis.

Those who operate radiology machines are known as radiologists.

Radiologists interpret the imaging data to detect and diagnose hard-to-detect injuries, illnesses, and diseases.

After the radiologist captures and interprets the data, they create a report and transfer their findings to a physician.

It enables them to observe physical abnormalities, diagnose conditions appropriately and develop a treatment plan.

Radiologists also observe and identify medical issues without incisions or invasive procedures.

As a result, they quickly determine health problems with less cost and risk to the patient’s health.

Benefits of Radiology Technology:
  • Detect and Diagnose hard to see health problems
  • Determine a patient’s surgical needs
  • Monitor patient’s health, recovery, and physical transformations
  • Screen for illnesses and injuries
  • Provide a safer, non-invasive alternative
  • Improve diagnosis of common illnesses
  • Improve data entry accuracy
  • Reduce medical costs

As previously mentioned, radiology enables experts to detect and diagnose health problems more safely and cost-effectively.

It also improves data entry accuracy, reduces medical costs, and enables surgeons to determine a patient surgical needs.

The following section explores the various radiology equipment radiologists use to understand this occupation better.

Types of Radiology Machines & Technology

Radiology is a broad domain that analyzes different aspects of the human body.

Therefore, radiology requires various machines and technologies to identify and diagnose health issues accurately.

It”s essential to mention that this is not a complete list of radiology procedures and technologies.

However, it provides an excellent introduction to the radiology devices healthcare professionals use to monitor patient health.

Diagnostic Radiology Modalities:

  • X-rays
  • Ultrasonography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Computed tomography

X-ray

X-ray machines detect damaged, misaligned, or abnormal bone structures in the body.

These devices work by emitting electromagnetic energy in pulses at a designated target, much like taking a photograph.

The electromagnetic energy then interacts with the target through Compton scattering, photoabsorption, and Rayleigh scattering to compose its target image.

X-ray technology captures hard, solid objects but not liquid or soft properties. 

As a result, it’s ideal for bone imaging, and radiologists use it to determine bone health, injuries, and abnormalities.

Although x-rays primarily scan solid objects, specialists can modify the technology to take images of less rigid things.

For instance, it can detect soft tissue, tumors, and other abnormal growth types within the human body in some cases.

X-ray machines frequently penetrate the body to capture images of hard, solid structures.

Therefore, hospitals, medical facilities, dentist offices, and research centers commonly use x-ray machines.

Airports, highly secure locations, and government facilities also use modified x-ray machines to detect dangerous objects.

Ultrasonography

Ultrasound uses sound technology to detect objects in real-time.

It enables ultrasound technicians to identify hidden objects that cannot be seen/observed without acoustic technology.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency emitting sounds that travel to the object, bounce off, and return to identify the entity.

These devices detect the shape, size, distance, and density of an object using acoustic technology and display it on a monitor,

As a result, ultrasound technicians and other specialists can observe the object more thoroughly and precisely.

Unlike x-ray scans, ultrasound uses acoustics to easily detect varying degrees of density and solidity within an object.

Ultrasound technology is often used during pregnancy to observe an unborn child.

However, ultrasound technicians and specialists also use it for other medical purposes.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging | MRI

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

These devices use nuclear magnetic resonance to create detailed images of the human body.

Unlike x-ray or ultrasound technology, MRI scans can take highly detailed images of the human body.

As a result, it provides significantly more information about its target than an x-ray.

MRI scans allow the operator to create a 3D image of the subject and observe varying layers of an individual’s anatomy.

Therefore, it’s great for detecting abnormalities or issues within the body that may require medical intervention.

In addition, MRIs are beneficial for scanning brain activity, anomalies, and injuries in near real-time.

It enables healthcare experts to determine the health and wellbeing of the observed individual.

Fluoroscopy

Fluoroscopy utilizes x-rays to provide real-time video of the inside of a particular body part.

Standard x-rays take a handful of still images to provide motionless photographs that healthcare experts can examine.

However, fluoroscopy continuously scans the body to provide real-time video that fixed imaging technology cannot.

As a result, it enables healthcare specialists to detect and diagnose health issues like heart diseases or intestinal illnesses.

It’s also beneficial for performing medical procedures requiring continuous, guided monitoring.

For instance, fluoroscopy is beneficial for guiding injections or implants and provides a visual guide during surgery.

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses radioactive material to observe the body’s organs or tissues.

A physician or patient injects, swallows, or inhales a tracer containing the radioactive material.

After that, the healthcare specialist uses a radiation detector to monitor how it reacts in the organs or tissue.

It enables them to gain valuable information about how well the particular body part functions.

It also helps them identify potential health issues, disorders, and diseases.

For instance, nuclear medicine helps specialists detect and diagnose various heart issues and brain disorders.

During treatment, healthcare professionals use a tracer to target and stop the growth of harmful cells.

Positron Emission Tomography | PET

PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography.

Positron emission tomography uses nuclear medical imaging to create three-dimensional images of the human body.

PET scans often use a tracer chemical known as fluorodeoxyglucose or FDG.

These chemicals are administered into the host’s bloodstream to allow the technician to highlight the part of the body.

After a short amount of time, the tracer chemical begins to decay within the host to prevent health care issues.

Computed Tomography

Computed tomography takes photographic images as slices/layers of a particular body area to scan and observe a section or region.

It creates a series of two-dimensional x-ray images cross-sectioned from various angles.

It then layers them onto one another to compose a detailed scan of the designated target.

Computed tomography is often used in head scans to identify abnormalities in the brain.

For instance, it helps detect growth tumors or brain injuries.

It also enables radiologists to map out the human brain and body.

Nevertheless, there are various other medical purposes for using computed tomography.

What Can Radiology Detect?

Radiology can detect a broad range of health issues, abnormalities, illnesses, and medical complications.

It includes Alzheimer’s, brain tumors, blood clots, bone issues, cancer, kidney stones, renal cysts, and other illnesses, disorders, and conditions.

As a result, radiology technology is essential for conducting routine health screenings and wellness checks.

It helps medical specialists identify numerous health issues before they reach a more critical phase.

The high-quality, detailed imaging also improves medical treatments and interventional radiological procedures.

Interventional Procedures:

  • Angiography or angioplasty and stent placement
  • Embolization to control bleeding
  • Cancer treatments
  • Tumor embolization
  • Tumor ablation and embolization
  • Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty
  • Needle biopsies
  • Breast biopsy
  • Kyphoplasty
  • CT Guided biopsies and drainages
  • Uterine artery/fibroid embolization
  • Feeding tube placement
  • Venous ablation
  • Venous access (PICC and Dialysis)

Radiology Specializations and Disciplines

Radiology covers a broad range of healthcare specializations and disciplines.

As a result, radiologists and ultrasound technicians pursue various healthcare domains to provide specialized care.

Some familiar fields include breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology, emergency care, neuroradiology, and pediatric care.

Each discipline enables healthcare experts to concentrate their education, training, and expertise on specific body regions.

The more knowledge they obtain, the better they are at detecting, diagnosing, and treating various illnesses and disorders. 

Radiology Subspecializations:

  • Breast imaging | mammograms
  • Cardiovascular radiology | heart and circulatory system
  • Chest radiology | heart and lungs
  • Emergency radiology | Trauma and ER imaging
  • Gastrointestinal radiology | stomach, intestines, and abdomen
  • Genitourinary radiology | reproductive and urinary systems
  • Head and neck radiology
  • Musculoskeletal radiology | muscles, and skeleton
  • Neuroradiology | brain and nervous system
  • Pediatric radiology | infant, and children

Putting it all Together

Radiology allows physicians to observe the inner body and obtain detailed information.

As a result, they can determine their patient’s health status and medical issues without incisions or invasive procedures.

It also saves the physician time and money and is much safer for the patient.

Radiology permits specialists to observe, diagnose, treat, and monitor patients without risking their health.

Educators also use x-rays, ultrasound, MRIs, PET scans, and computed tomography to create images, 3D models, and interactive programs.

It enables them to educate and inform students who aspire to become healthcare professionals and providers.

Without radiology, medical costs and health issues regarding patient care would skyrocket.

It would also lead to risker medical procedures and patient care complications regarding medical treatment and recovery.