Radiologists are medical professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases through imaging and analyzing radiographs. In other words, they use x-rays, MRIs, and other imaging technology to diagnose patients. Radiologists are essential members of the healthcare team—when their expertise is needed.
But radiology is not a first-line treatment for any disease or condition. A primary care provider should be able to handle most imaging needs. When should you see a radiologist? Here’s what you need to know from Mermaid Beach Radiology.
When you need a specialist to interpret an image
Every diagnostic imaging study has limitations. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and other tests have inherent technical issues that may make their interpretation difficult for a primary care provider. For example, x-rays may not image certain parts of the body well, or MRI/CT scans may not be available in a primary care setting.
In these situations, you should see a specialist who can interpret your imaging results and respond with expert recommendations and next steps.
When imaging will guide treatment decisions
You should see a radiologist when imaging will guide treatment decisions. If your imaging results affect your treatment, you should see a specialist who can accurately interpret your images and make treatment recommendations based on their findings.
For example, a mammogram is a type of imaging that can detect breast tumors. If the radiologist sees something unusual on a mammogram, he or she will report that finding to the patient. The patient then reports the finding to his or her primary care provider.
The primary care provider will then report the finding to a breast surgeon. This way, all parties are informed about the findings and can respond appropriately.
When your condition requires immediate care
Certain conditions require immediate care. If you have a condition that needs immediate medical attention, you should see a specialist immediately. For example, stroke patients should receive immediate medical attention. A primary care provider may be able to recognize some stroke symptoms.
But the provider may not be able to provide the immediate assessment and treatment that a stroke patient needs. That’s why stroke patients should see a neurologist as soon as possible.
When surgery is recommended
If imaging suggests your condition requires surgery, you should see a radiologist. If your imaging results show that surgery is necessary, your primary care provider may refer you to a surgeon.
In these situations, you will see a radiologist who will interpret your imaging results and make recommendations for further care. For example, imaging results may suggest the presence of a tumor. Surgery may be the only way to remove the tumor.
For Cancer Detection/Treatment and Imaging
Cancer treatment and imaging are closely related. Imaging can be used to detect cancer and track its progress. Imaging can also be used to guide biopsies and other cancer treatment procedures. As with other situations, your primary care provider will likely recommend imaging to help with your diagnosis. You should see a radiologist if your provider feels that imaging is essential to your diagnosis or treatment plan.
Other times when you should see a radiologist
Other times you should see a radiologist include if you have a complex medical condition for a primary care provider to manage. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a complex disease that requires frequent joint exams. A primary care provider may not have time to conduct these exams.
In these situations, you should see a specialist who can make frequent joint exams possible. You should see a radiologist if you have a condition requiring frequent imaging. For example, patients with chronic pain often require imaging to monitor their condition. MRIs are often used for this purpose. If you have a chronic pain condition, you may need imaging regularly.
In these situations, you should see a radiologist who can provide the imaging services you need. You should see a radiologist if you have a condition requiring specialized imaging. For example, patients with kidney stones may benefit from exceptional imaging. This imaging may include special x-rays or a CT scan. If you have a condition that requires exceptional imaging, you should see a radiologist who can provide the specialized tests you need.
Radiologists are medical professionals who specialize in the interpretation of imaging studies. When you need a specialist to interpret an image, when imaging will guide treatment decisions, when your condition requires immediate care, or when surgery is recommended, you should see a radiologist.
Other times when you should see a radiologist include if you have a condition that is difficult for a primary care provider to manage, if you have a condition that requires frequent imaging, or if you have a condition that requires specialized imaging.