A radiologist is a specialist medical doctor who has had postgraduate training in performing and interpreting diagnostic imaging tests and interventional procedures or treatments that involve the use of X-ray, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging equipment.
Radiologists are trained to assist other doctors and specialists to treat their patients by making a diagnosis and providing treatment using medical imaging. Radiologists have the medical knowledge to understand and explain the medical problem or symptom through the images or pictures that are taken of various parts of the inside of the body.
Radiologists can choose to work in various sub-specialties of radiology such as breast imaging, interventional radiology, musculoskeletal imaging, cardiac imaging or paediatric (children’s) imaging.
There are three types of radiology – diagnostic, interventional and therapeutic (called radiation oncology).
Diagnostic: diagnostic imaging uses plain X-ray radiology, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and nuclear medicine imaging techniques to obtain images that are then interpreted to aid in the diagnosis of disease.
Interventional: interventional radiologists treat as well as diagnose disease using imaging equipment.
Radiation oncology: radiation oncology uses radiation to treat diseases such as cancer, using radiation therapy.
In general their tasks are as follows: they obtain patients' histories from electronic records, patient interviews, dictated reports or by communicating with referring clinicians, conduct physical examinations so that they can make informed decisions about appropriate procedures, and evaluate medical information to determine the patients' risk factors, such as allergies to contrast agents, or to make decisions regarding the appropriateness of the procedures. They provide counselling to the patients to explain the processes, risks, benefits or alternative treatments, and perform or interpret the outcomes of diagnostic imaging procedures including MRI, CT, PET, nuclear cardiology treadmill studies, mammography or ultrasound.
They prepare comprehensive interpretive reports of the findings, and communicate the examination results or diagnostic information to the referring physicians, patients or their families
Radiology is at the forefront of technological advances in clinical medicine. The ability to produce pictures of the human body using many different techniques has revolutionised the practice of medicine over the past hundred years. Radiologists are central members of the multidisciplinary clinical care team and play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease in adults and children (including babies and foetuses). Radiology offers tremendous scope for a varied career in cutting edge technology, clinical medicine, teaching and research and is becoming more highly sub-specialised as imaging technology increases in its sophistication and complexity.
Lusaka Apex Medical University, University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of Technology Mauritius, University of the Free State, University of the Witwatersrand