What Is Radiology?

In its simplest terms, Radiology is an essential branch of medicine that uses medical imaging by way of X-rays, ultrasound and magnetic resonance to diagnose and treat diseases. Early detection and diagnosis is crucial and is often the basis for a successful treatment plan and can save lives.

Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology

Diagnostic Radiology uses medical imaging to identify and diagnose conditions. If you’ve ever had a broken bone and needed an x-ray, gone for an ultrasound or mammogram, or needed a CT or MRI scan, you’ve experienced Diagnostic Radiology.

Interventional Radiology is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses imaging techniques to diagnose, treat and cure conditions. Common examples are Angioplasty, Stenting, Thrombolysis, Embolization and Radiofrequency ablation.  The use of Interventional Radiology can reduce a number of risks and costs for patients who otherwise may have needed traditional surgery. 

Who oversees all of these procedures? 

That would be a Radiologist. These doctors have successfully gone through at least 13 years of post-secondary education. These doctors have trained for at least four years in the speciality of diagnostic radiology after obtaining his or her MD. The training includes the modalities of radiography (“plain” X-ray images), ultrasound, CT and MRI. Some radiologists may also obtain training in Interventional Radiology or Nuclear medicine.

The History of Radiology

This cutting edge field of medicine has expanded rapidly as technological advances over the past two decades improved by leaps and bounds. Radiology has been around for over a century however, beginning when, assisted by his wife, Anna Bertha,Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen first discovered X-Rays in 1895. His findings, compiled in the paper ‘On a New Kind of Rays’, earned Röntgen a Nobel Prize — the first ever handed out in the Physics category.

Tomography, whose etymology is from the Greek word “tomos” (meaning ‘slice’ or ‘section’) and “graphia” (which means ‘description of’), was discovered as a superior method of medical imaging in 1921 by Parisian physicist André Bocage, and refers to imaging by sections. The first Computed Tomography (CT) scan was not performed on a patient for another fifty years, when Sir Godrey Hounsfield invented the CT scanner in 1971. Hounsfield (along with Allan Cormack for the theoretical mathematics he contributed) won the 1979 Nobel Prize for his work on one of the most revolutionary advances in medicine.

Discover more about the various areas of Radiology through the British Columbia Radiological Society.