What Is Radiology? Everything You Need to Know

May 22, 2024 3:30:00 AM / by Chad Hutchison

Radiology is a medical imaging procedure that uses ionizing electromagnetic radiation to create images of bones, organs, and soft tissues to diagnose a patient’s symptoms, disease, or conditions. It includes techniques like X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and fluoroscopy. 

Radiology and medical imaging are closely related and often used interchangeably. However, technically speaking, medical imaging is a broader term that includes radiology and other techniques, such as MRI and ultrasounds, which do not use ionizing radiation, protecting the patients from potentially harmful radiation. However, MRI scans and ultrasounds are also considered forms of medical radiology procedures.

What Is Radiology?

Radiology is a medical imaging procedure that uses ionizing electromagnetic radiation to create images of the body’s bones, organs, and soft tissues. These images allow healthcare professionals to visualize the structures within the human body, accurately diagnosing and treating injuries and other conditions. 

Radiology has also revealed critical scientific discoveries, like unveiling DNA’s double helix structure. NASA also uses it to study the Sun and supernovas and to detect cracks or other flaws in the sensitive equipment used in space travel and space exploration.

Why Is Radiology Important?

Imaging radiology is a critical diagnostic tool that is painless, safe, and noninvasive. It can diagnose anything from broken bones and foreign objects to organ and soft tissue diseases. It allows for rapid diagnosis, so you or your patients can quickly move from diagnostics to treatment. 

Every sector of medicine relies on radiology for diagnostics and treatment, including surgery, pediatrics, oncology, emergency medicine, dentistry, and many more. 

What Is Radiology Used For?

  • X-rays capture images of the body's internal structure where it can identify bone fractures, look for foreign objects, detect diseases and conditions, and more.
  • CT (Computed Tomography), or CAT scans, combines multiple X-ray images taken from different angles to provide cross-sectional internal body views that are much more detailed than standard X-rays. These are critical for quickly diagnosing internal injuries, internal bleeding, and cancer and also for monitoring specific treatments and planning surgical procedures.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans use radio waves and magnetic fields, notably not using ionizing radiation at any point. Advanced computer processing assists in creating detailed images of tissues, such as the brain, muscles, and joints. 
  • Mammograms are a particular type of X-ray using ionizing radiation to look at breast tissues to diagnose and monitor cancer and other conditions. 
  • Ultrasounds use sound waves instead of radiation to create moving images viewed on a monitor in real time. They are often used to examine the womb of pregnant women but also assist in visualizing organs, blood flow, and soft tissues. 
  • Fluoroscopy is a continuous X-ray beam that allows moving images of the body during various interventional and diagnostic procedures, especially gastrointestinal tract ones. 
  • Nuclear medicine uses short-acting radioactive substances that generate light from bodily processes that are then collected by a camera and processed by a computer, allowing radiologists to imagine how your soft tissues and organs function as it happens. These are often combined with CT scans to provide highly detailed anatomical and functional information used in diagnostics and to assist in treatment. 

Types of Radiology


Diagnostic radiology is a critical field that enables healthcare professionals to visualize structures within the human body. Diagnostics allow for fast, safe, and accurate diagnosis of conditions, monitoring a patient’s response to medical procedures, and conducting preventative screenings for diseases like cancer, heart disease, and numerous others. 


Interventional radiologists use imaging modalities like CT, MRI, and ultrasound as navigational aids to guide precision medical procedures, such as accurately positioning catheters and wires within the body. These provide exceptional precision compared to performing the procedures without, allowing for minimally invasive procedures with a much higher degree of safety.

Radiation Oncology

Radiation oncology is a different branch of radiology that involves the treatment of cancer and some noncancerous conditions. Skilled radiation oncologists target tumorous cells using specially optimized and highly targeted intense beams of energy directed at the cells to destroy or inhibit their growth while minimizing harm to surrounding healthy tissues. 

What Does a Radiologist Do?

Radiologists are medical doctors who utilize imaging procedures to diagnose and treat various conditions. They are responsible for determining the type of imaging equipment and its usage and then examining the images to diagnose, monitor, and treat countless illnesses and injuries. There are several specialties in this field. 

Different Types of Radiologists

  • Diagnostic radiologists use medical imaging procedures, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, and other techniques, to diagnose and treat diseases. 
  • Interventional radiologists use medical imaging to assist in procedures like keyhole surgery. Procedures make surgical procedures safer and less invasive, allowing faster recovery and fewer complications and risks. 
  • Radiation oncologists use radiation-based therapy to treat cancer with high-energy radiation to damage cancer cells, prevent their spread, alleviate symptoms, and sometimes even cure the disease.
  • Medical physicists use the science of physics to assist in medical procedures. For example, they may offer advice on the technical aspects of medical imaging to ensure safe and effective methods. They are also often involved in research, assisting in developing new technologies, like MRI, which is widely popular today.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Become a Radiologist?

To become a radiologist, you need an undergraduate degree followed by a Medical College Admission Test before entering a medical school. Then, you do four years of medical training and education, a year of clinical training, and finally, four years of paid residency work providing on-the-job training in your field.

What Are The Advantages of Radiology?

Radiology is a safe and noninvasive diagnostic or preventative procedure that can rapidly diagnose conditions or illnesses without needing painful, exploratory surgery. It can also assist in newer, less invasive surgeries, resulting in faster recovery times and monitoring future treatments and medications to ensure they work as expected.

Final Thoughts

Radiology is a broad field of diagnostic, preventative, and intervention medicine. New technology allows medical equipment to ensure fast, accurate, safe, and noninvasive or less invasive procedures. Such technology will enable you to move quickly from diagnostics to treatment or help reduce the recovery time of surgeries by making them safer and less invasive.

Old X-ray machines that used film and chemical processing are a thing of the past. Those methods took extra time to process, additional storage and other considerations. Nowadays, Digital X-ray machines like those at Maven Imaging provide rapid diagnostics to help you or your patients get on the road to recovery.

Tags: radiology

Chad Hutchison

Written by Chad Hutchison

Founder and CEO of Maven Imaging, Chad Hutchison has been in the medical imaging equipment market since 2003. As his business grew, he pioneered buying and selling medical equipment online and eventually began offering leasing and financing to meet market demands and help customers. His market expertise goes beyond traditional medical imaging and finance support, as he’s spearheading cloud-based lending solutions for vendors across the sector.