Last verified on March 22, 2019
On this pageA radiologist is a physician who uses imaging methodologies to diagnose and manage patients and provide therapeutic options. Physicians practicing in the field of radiology specialize in diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, or radiation oncology. They also may certify in a number of subspecialties. The board also certifies in medical physics and issues specific certificates within this discipline.
Diagnostic RadiologyA diagnostic radiologist uses x-rays, radionuclides, ultrasound, and electromagnetic radiation to diagnose and treat disease. Training required is five years: one year of clinical training, followed by four years of radiology training. The majority of trainees complete an additional year of training during a fellowship. A diagnostic radiologist who wishes to specialize in one of the six areas listed below must first certify in diagnostic radiology. Subspecialties (see descriptions below):
Interventional Radiology/Diagnostic RadiologyAn interventional radiologist combines competence in imaging, image-guided minimally invasive procedures, and periprocedural patient care to diagnose and treat benign and malignant conditions of the thorax, abdomen, pelvis, and extremities. Therapies include embolization, angioplasty, stent placement, thrombus management, drainage, and ablation, among others. Training includes a minimum of three years of diagnostic radiology and two years of interventional radiology, leading to primary certification in interventional radiology/diagnostic radiology. Subspecialties (see descriptions below):
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine
- Nuclear Radiology
- Pain Medicine
- Pediatric Radiology
Radiation OncologyA radiation oncologist uses ionizing radiation and other modalities to treat malignant and some benign diseases. Radiation oncologists may also use computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and hyperthermia (heat) as additional interventions to aid in treatment planning and delivery. Training required is five years: one year of general clinical work, followed by four years of dedicated radiation oncology training. Subspecialties (see descriptions below):
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine
- Pain Medicine
Subspecialty DescriptionsCertification in one of the following subspecialties requires additional training and examination. Hospice and Palliative Medicine A specialist in hospice and palliative medicine has knowledge and skills to prevent and relieve the suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting illnesses. This specialist works with an interdisciplinary hospice or palliative care team to optimize quality of life while addressing the physical, psychological, social, moral, ethical, and spiritual needs of both patients and families. One year of fellowship training is required. Neuroradiology A specialist in neuroradiology diagnoses and treats disorders of the brain, sinuses, spine, spinal cord, neck, and the central nervous system, such as aging and degenerative diseases, seizure disorders, cancer, stroke, cerebrovascular diseases, and trauma. Imaging commonly used in neuroradiology includes angiography, myelography, interventional techniques, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Two additional years – one year of a fellowship and one year of practice or additional approved training – are required. Nuclear Radiology A specialist in nuclear radiology uses the administration of trace amounts of radioactive substances (radionuclides) to provide images and information for making a diagnosis. Imaging that can involve nuclear radiology includes positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans. One additional year of fellowship training is required. Pain Medicine A specialist in pain medicine provides care for patients with acute, chronic, and/or cancer pain in both inpatient and outpatient settings while coordinating patient care needs with other specialists. One additional year of fellowship training is required. Pediatric Radiology A specialist in pediatric radiology uses imaging and interventional procedures related to the diagnosis, care, and management of congenital abnormalities (those present at birth) and diseases particular to infants and children. A pediatric radiologist also treats diseases that begin in childhood and can cause impairments in adulthood. Two additional years – one year of a fellowship and one year of practice or additional approved training – are required.
Medical PhysicsThe discipline of medical physics includes the three specialty areas of diagnostic medical physics, nuclear medical physics, and therapeutic medical physics. Medical physicists support the diagnosis and treatment of disease through their understanding of the underlying scientific principles of imaging and therapeutic processes. They use this knowledge to perform or supervise technical aspects of procedures to ensure safe and effective delivery of radiation for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The type of training varies per specialty area.
Specialty Areas in Medical PhysicsA certified medical physicist MUST specialize in at least one of the following but may hold separate primary certification in two areas or all three.
- Diagnostic Medical Physics A specialist in diagnostic medical physics (1) facilitates appropriate use of x-rays, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance in diagnostic procedures; (2) monitors performance of the equipment associated with diagnostic procedures; and (3) applies standards for the safe use of radiation.
- Nuclear Medical Physics A specialist in nuclear medical physics (1) facilitates appropriate use of radionuclides (except those used in sealed sources for therapeutic purposes) for diagnosing and treating disease; (2) monitors performance of the equipment associated with use of radionuclides in diagnosing and treating disease; and (3) applies standards for the safe use of radiation.
- Therapeutic Medical Physics A specialist in therapeutic medical physics (1) facilitates the appropriate use of x-rays, gamma rays, electrons, and other charged particle beams in the treatment of disease; (2) monitors performance of the equipment associated with therapeutic procedures; and (3) applies standards for the safe use of radiation.