What Is Diagnostic Radiography?

As technology continues to advance, physicians have a multitude of methods to diagnose diseases. External exams and laboratory testing can be helpful until the inside of the body needs to be seen. Enter diagnostic radiology. Radiography is a broad field that uses imaging techniques to view the skin. Doctors use diagnostic radiography to non-invasively diagnose injuries and diseases inside the body. 

Keep reading to learn more about diagnostic radiography, areas of focus for this field, the types of technologies used, and how it can differ from interventional radiography. 

What Is the Meaning of Diagnostic Radiography?

In diagnostic radiography, non-invasive imaging scans are taken of the body to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. Some imaging methods involve low doses of radiation to obtain high-level, detailed images of the body. A contrast agent might be administered to emphasize select areas of the body for clearer, more detailed images. 

Since this is a non-invasive technique, diseases underneath the skin can be seen. Some common illnesses diagnosed are broken bones, blood clots, cancer, and cardiac problems. Even better, doctors can also use diagnostic radiology to monitor the body’s response to treatment plans. 

Some examples of diagnostic radiology tools that doctors use are:

  • Ultrasound
  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Nuclear Medicine Scans
  • Radiography (X-rays)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Mammography 

All of these techniques allow doctors to examine a wide range of diseases without having to use surgery to see inside the body.

What Are the Areas of Focus in Diagnostic Radiology?

Diagnostic radiologists focus on using imaging techniques to diagnose diseases, but they can specialize in specific parts of the body. Diagnostic radiologists are either trained medical (MD) doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine (OD). They typically instruct diagnostic technicians on patient-specific requirements, so the image can be used for a diagnosis.

A radiological doctor can be trained in many specialties – let’s discuss a few. A pediatric specialist focuses on performing radiography on infants, children, and teenagers safely and gently. Cardiovascular radiologists use diagnostic imaging to pinpoint diseases in the cardiovascular system, which involves the heart and blood vessels. A neuroradiologist evaluates a patient’s brain structure while also examining the neck and spine. Genitourinary radiology, on the other hand, diagnoses diseases within the urinary system– bladder, kidney, and adrenal glands. Some other areas of focus include bone densitometry, radiation oncology, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal. 

Technology Commonly Used in Diagnostic Radiology

The type of technology used to collect the images depends on the area of the body being examined – and to what degree. Some methods of diagnostic radiology require low doses of radiation, while others do not. Let’s look into commonly used technology below.

X-Ray Machines

To begin, X-ray machines offer a type of electromagnetic radiation, like microwave waves or visible light. X-rays are higher energy than visible light, allowing them to pass through objects, such as the human body. Different tissues in the body will absorb higher and lower levels of the radiation. For instance, denser bone tissue will absorb X-rays, whereas muscles and organs are less dense and absorb fewer X-rays. These are most often used to image bones, the chest, and the abdomen. 

CT Scanners

Computed Tomography (CT) scanners also use X-rays. In an X-ray machine, a flat image of the body is created. With CT scans, the machine circles around, taking hundreds of valuable X-ray images. This provides radiologists with clearer, detailed images of organs, which may not be as clear in the flat X-ray machine image. 

MRI Machines

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines do not use X-rays. Instead, a magnetic field is created inside the machine. Sensors in the MRI detect changes in proton movement when radio frequencies are applied and then removed. Different tissues impact proton movement; thus, radiologists can view different tissues on the image. This technique is sensitive, making it well-suited for imaging soft tissue, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. 

What Is the Difference Between Diagnostic Radiology and Interventional Radiology?

Diagnostic radiology focuses on diagnosing diseases. Interventional radiology focuses on guiding medical procedures in real-time. Some examples of procedures completed with interventional radiology are:

  • Embolizations (internal bleeding)
  • Needle biopsies of organs
  • Breast biopsies
  • Feeding tube placement
  • Catheter placement 
  • Some cancer treatments 

Interventional radiologists use the same imaging techniques as diagnostic radiologists, but the goal is to perform a procedure, not diagnose. Before these techniques, doctors used scopes or open surgery to complete these procedures. Utilizing non-invasive methods reduces pain, is lower in cost, has fewer side effects, and usually has a shorter recovery time. 

Final Thoughts

Diagnostic radiography is an exceptional tool for physicians to provide excellent care for their patients. If you’re looking to utilize diagnostic radiography in hospitals, radiology departments, or imaging centers, Maven offers digital X-ray machines to meet your needs. We’re here to help!