Radiologists are doctors that specialize in obtaining and assessing medical images to diagnose and treat health conditions. Radiologists use imaging technologies like x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds to help patients. Radiologists differ from radiologic technicians who focus solely on obtaining medical images. Radiologists have advanced medical training and perform a variety of non-interventional and interventional treatments.
Currently, there are about 28,000 radiologists in the United States.
Students interested in radiology must earn an undergraduate degree in a field of science and go on to complete medical school and graduate with a Doctor of Medicine ( M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.).
After graduating medical school, potential radiologists must complete a one-year internship in general medicine or surgery, and then complete a 4-year residency program in radiology.
Most radiologists also choose to complete a 1 to 3-year fellowship after residency to subspecialize in a field of radiology such as:
- Breast imaging
- Cardiovascular radiology
- Chest radiology
- Emergency radiology
- Gastrointestinal radiology
- Genitourinary radiology
- Head and neck radiology
- Interventional radiology
- Nuclear radiology
- Radiation oncology
State licensure is required for all practicing doctors, including radiologists. Each state has different requirements. Radiologists are also required to pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE).
Medical licenses do not demonstrate knowledge of one particular area of medicine, so most doctors choose to become board certified in their field.
Radiologists can receive board certification through a number of different boards including the American Board of Radiology (ABR), the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (AOBR), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS). To become board certified radiologists must meet certain educational and professional standards, and must pass the qualifying exams.
Where Radiologists Work
Almost all radiologists work out of hospitals and outpatient diagnostic centers. Radiologists can have limited contact with patients, may spend most of their time assessing and interpreting radiologic images. Radiologists may also work in clinical settings, or may work in telemedicine and review images from patients around the world.
How Radiologists Help People
Radiologists perform medical imaging and use their knowledge to interpret and assess the results of the images to diagnose patients. But radiologists are more than just doctors who look at scans and x-rays of patients; radiologists also perform radiation treatments and minimally invasive surgical procedures on patients.
Radiologists perform and analyze medical images like:
- CT (computed tomography) scans
- CAT scan
- PET scan
- Nuclear imaging
Radiologists work as one part of the patient's larger health care team. Patients see radiologists on referral from other doctors who have ordered diagnostic tests. Radiologists will assess the patient by performing a physical examination and by discussing the patient's medical history. The radiologist will take the necessary diagnostic imaging, and may order additional tests. After analyzing the results, radiologists may recommend treatment to patients or confer with other members of the patient's care team.
The duties of a radiologist are largely determined by the subspecialty in which the radiologist has been trained. Diagnostic radiologists will focus on assessing and analyzing images and scans to create a diagnosis, and interventional radiologists will perform minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures on the patient, like performing a biopsy to aid in diagnosis or performing an angioplasty treatment with imaging equipment.
Radiologists can also work in settings where they barely interact with patients. Radiologists in laboratories will work to analyze and diagnose patients using the patients' medical images, and will report back to other members of the patient's care team.
Medical Negligence and Radiologists
The most important function of a radiologist is to correctly diagnose medical conditions in patients. Medical studies have shown that failure to diagnose is by far the most common malpractice claim against radiologists, making up about 67% of all closed malpractice claims against radiologists.
Doctors may rely on radiologists to interpret medical imaging scans for patients, and when radiologists fail to diagnose the patient, harmful medical conditions may remain unknown and cause delays in treatment.
Other medical malpractice claims against radiologists include procedural complication, negligence, failure to communicate with provider, angiography injury, failure to recommend additional testing, failure to treat, and failure to communicate with the family.
Radiologists are also responsible for protecting surrounding anatomy during imaging scans. Radiologists should use proper radiation protection apparel on patients like lead aprons, thyroid shields, and lead glasses.
Medication errors are also commonly cited in malpractice cases against radiologists. Patients undergoing diagnostic medical imaging may receive potentially dangerous medications like blood thinners, dyes, and sedatives to enhance the images. Radiologists must communicate these medications to other doctors or risk adverse reactions and over medicating patients.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Radiologists should possess the necessary training and skill to perform and interpret diagnostic imaging tests. When radiologists fail to correctly interpret imaging tests or fail to order and perform necessary diagnostic tests, patients can suffer delayed, missed, and failed diagnoses.
The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have the extensive medical knowledge you need to track down and determine any negligence in your case.
Call our offices at (800) 529-6162 today to begin your case and to learn more about your legal options.