Why Would My Doctor Refer Me to a Radiologist?
A radiologist is a licensed and board-certified medical doctor who diagnoses and treats injury and disease using advanced medical imaging technologies such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasound. Radiologists undergo well over a decade of education and training, including four years of medical school, a four-year residency, and usually a one- to two-year fellowship specializing in a specific area, such as head and neck, oncology, pediatric, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, or cardiovascular imaging.
Has your doctor recently referred you to a radiologist? If so, you might have some questions about what to expect, or why a radiologist should be involved in your care. Keep reading to learn more.
Reasons to See a Radiologist
The management of complex health issues usually requires ongoing collaboration between a variety of providers across a range of disciplines. Doctors have different areas of expertise, so working as a team helps ensure patients receive the most comprehensive and personalized plan of care. For this reason, physicians often rely on other experts in the medical field to offer their clinical opinions and help guide individual treatment plans.
Radiologists play important roles in the development and progression of a patient's medical care. These doctors must have the essential knowledge, training, and skills necessary to perform medical imaging tests and correctly interpret the results. Based on these results, radiologists will then be able to recommend additional treatments, testing, or referrals. Accurate and timely interpretation of these imaging results can dramatically improve patient outcomes.
Some specific medical conditions that a radiologist can diagnose and treat include:
- Sports injuries, including muscle strains and tendon ruptures
- Other injuries related to acute trauma, including broken bones, brain injuries, joint dislocations, and foreign object impalement
- Cardiovascular issues such as aneurysms and damaged or clogged arteries
- Gastrointestinal problems such as small bowel obstructions
Radiologists are often involved in therapeutic or preventive measures like cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies. Some radiologists, known as interventional radiologists, even use imaging technologies like CT scans and ultrasound to perform minimally invasive operations for conditions like cancer and heart disease.
For example, an interventional radiologist can take a tissue sample (biopsy) to help rule out or diagnose cancer, or place a stent in a blocked artery to help restore blood flow to the heart. Interventional radiology allows the doctor to gain access to a specific organ or tissue inside the body using very small incisions. For the patient, this helps reduce the risk of complications and improves things like recovery time and pain management.
Where Do Radiologists Work?
Depending on the reason you're seeing a radiologist, your appointment might be held in an outpatient setting, such as a private or hospital-associated clinic. Many radiologists work within hospitals, and some even work in laboratories or research centers.
How to Prepare for Your Radiology Appointment
Your radiology practice provider will give you clear instructions about how to prepare for an upcoming appointment. The specific instructions you'll need to follow will depend on factors like the reason for your visit and the type of medical imaging technology ordered by your doctor. Here are some general guidelines you can expect:
- You will likely be asked to refrain from eating anything or drinking anything other than water prior to your appointment, usually for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. If you take prescription medication that must be taken with food, talk to your doctor.
- Find out ahead of time whether you will need to arrange for someone to take you to and from your appointment. For example, some patients who are fearful of enclosed spaces are advised by their doctors to take anti-anxiety medication prior to undergoing MRIs, and these medications can make it unsafe for them to drive.
- If your doctor prescribes medication to help you feel calmer during your visit, be sure to take your medication as instructed.
- Avoid wearing fragrances such as perfumes, lotions, and deodorants, and leave all your jewelry at home.
- Bring along copies of your important personal information, including contact details, emergency contact information, insurance provider information, notes from your referring physician, a full list of your current medications and allergies, and any previous imaging studies.
While preparing for your visit, feel free to write down a list of questions you have about your health condition, or questions about the medical imaging testing you will receive. Your medical team can go through these questions with you and make sure you are able to make well-informed decisions for yourself or your loved one.
Having radiology as a part of your medical team can have a positive impact on your experience as a patient and on your long-term health outcomes. Call us today to learn more about our outpatient radiology services and how we can help you or your loved one manage an acute or chronic health condition.