What Is Radiology?

What happens when you go to your doctor with hip pain, a headache or a swollen leg?

After examination, your doctor might prescribe a radiology procedure, an in-depth look into your body using pictures or images.

Radiology procedures are commonly known as “imaging.” Lesser-used synonyms include tomography, fluoroscopy and radioscopy.

The origins of the word radiology are from “radio,” employing or dealing with radio waves and “-ology,” a word form used in the names of sciences or bodies of knowledge. The word’s early history meant a “medical use of X-rays.”

But, radiology is much more than X-rays. It is other diagnostic tests with the alphabet names that you might know – CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography).  Ultrasounds and mammograms are other radiology exams. 

Radiology is an important diagnostic tool that helps to learn the source of your problem and gives medical staff key information for a plan of action.

Radiology images or pictures may tell if that hip pain is from a fracture, the underlying cause of your headache or if a clot is causing your leg to swell. 

Some radiologists, such as radiation oncologists offer cancer treatment using interventional radiology and minimally-invasive procedures that are guided by imaging.

Radiologist Roles and Responsibilities

  • Radiologists oversee the work of radiology technologists, personnel operating the imaging equipment.
  • Radiologists collaborate with technologists to ensure high quality images or pictures.
  • Radiologists interpret and analyzing imaging results and correlate results with other tests. They are expert partners to the referring doctor and can recommend further examinations.

Radiologists Are Physicians


Radiologists are doctors. Their education, training and expertise include:

  • Graduating from an accredited medical school
  • Passing a licensing examination
  • Completing a residency of at least four years of post-graduate medical education

Some radiologists have also completed fellowships, one to two years of specialized training in disciplines that include breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology or nuclear medicine.

Radiologists are also proficient in radiation safety and protection and its effects on the body. 

Certification from the American Board of Radiology or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology, ensures that physicians have obtained the highest level of training and excellence in the field.