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Who is a radiologist?

Radiologists are trained to assist other doctors and specialists to treat their patients by making a diagnosis and providing treatment using medical imaging. Radiologists have the medical knowledge to understand and explain your medical problem or symptom through the images or pictures that are taken of various parts of the inside of your body.

Radiologists can choose to work in various subspecialties of radiology such as breast imaging, interventional radiology, musculoskeletal imaging, cardiac imaging, or paediatric (children’s) imaging.

What does a radiologist do?

Most radiologists work in a public or private hospital or private radiology practices. They are there to assist other doctors in diagnosing and treating illness. Radiologists do this by understanding when an imaging test may be needed to answer a question about a symptom, disease, injury or treatment, etc., and also when imaging is unlikely to be helpful. If an imaging test is needed, radiologists know which test is likely to be the best one to answer the question, or, if more than one test is needed, in which order the tests should be done to get the best result. When a radiologist receives a request for a test or interventional treatment of a problem, he or she considers the different imaging tests available, considers the risks and benefits of the different ways of obtaining imaging to assist in answering the question, and determines what test or treatment to do and how best to do it.

Radiologists communicate the results of diagnostic and interventional imaging through a written report sent to the referring doctor. Radiologists work as part of a clinical team so that they can participate actively in decision making about imaging tests.

There are three types of radiology – diagnostic, interventional and therapeutic (called radiation oncology):

Diagnostic:

Diagnostic imaging uses plain X-ray radiology, computerised tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and nuclear medicine imaging techniques to obtain images that are interpreted to aid in the diagnosis of disease.

Interventional:

Interventional radiologists treat as well as diagnose disease using imaging equipment. Interventional radiologists may sub-specialise further so that they only treat abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord (neurointervention) or of the blood vessels elsewhere in the body (angiointervention). Interventional radiology is a minimally invasive procedures using X-ray, magnetic or ultrasound images to guide the procedures, usually done with tiny instruments and thin plastic tubes called catheters inserted through an artery or vein.

Radiation oncology:

Radiation oncology uses radiation to treat diseases such as cancer, using radiation therapy. These specialists are not called radiologists, but radiation oncologists, even though they belong to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.

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