Radiology – the Department of Diagnosis

Geoff Price, Rosie Scott, Camilla Sonksen and John Bush

To most people, the radiology department is the place where you go to get an x-ray, but there’s a lot more going on, as radiology team from Spring Orthopaedics explain.

“A radiologist’s job is to find out the cause of complex medical problems and in some cases, to provide a treatment. We have a wide range of equipment to provide us with images of what’s happening inside the patient’s body including x-rays, ultrasound (it’s not just for pregnancy) and the more sophisticated CT (Computed Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans.

“Nearly everyone at some point in their lives will need to visit the radiology department for a diagnostic procedure. It could be after a long wait in Casualty to get a verdict on an accidental injury or a referral from another specialist to find out the cause of on-going pain.

“While most people are familiar with x-rays, procedures such as CT scans and MRIs are an altogether more daunting prospect. Some of the most common questions we hear from patients are: “Am I going to have to go in one of those tunnels?” and “Are you going to give me one of those injections that my friend said really hurt?”

“These “guided injections” are usually to administer painkillers or steroids directly into joints and there is more myth and rumour about them than almost anything else we have come across, with gory stories usually recounted by a helpful relative or colleague that would put the wind up even us! In fact we go to considerable length to ensure that any discomfort is kept to a minimum. Relieved patients, when it’s all over, often say: “Well that wasn’t much to worry about”.

“The tunnels people hear about are machines that can produce pictures of bones, joints and muscles in exquisite detail to enable us to make a really accurate diagnosis. It can take time for the machine to take these images, especially MRI when the examination can take 20 to 40 minutes. Music and headphones help to make the experience more bearable and for the vast majority of patients, the anticipation is the worst part.

“The use of CT and MRI has revolutionised modern medicine enabling us to treat problems that, up until recent times, we could only have dreamed of. As the technology becomes more complex and the “abilities” of these machines becomes greater, it is a major issue to understand the meaning of the information they provide. The radiologist’s forte is not only to maximise the use of the technology and provide an interpretation of what can seem a totally confusing image but also and most importantly, to ensure these procedures are conducted safely and comfortably for our patients.”