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Every day, millions of people undergo imaging evaluations to assess a wide range of medical conditions. When the power of imaging technology is appropriately expanded, these studies yield a wealth of useful medical information. However, like all medical procedures, most imaging studies are associated with risks to patients and costs to patients and society as a whole. These drawbacks are made more significant when the studies fail to yield useful information, such as when an inappropriate study is ordered or when an imaging study is not indicated. Knowledge of the different imaging modalities and their relative costs and benefits is vital to proper management of patients.


The foundations of diagnostic imaging were laid over the course of a few years, starting with the discovery of x-rays by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, radioactivity by Henri Becquerel in 1896, and radium by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898 [3]. Radiology, or the study of radiation, is an anachronistic term still in use that recalls the years before sound waves and nuclear magnetic resonance were harnessed as ultrasound (US) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for medical use. Today, diagnostic imaging encompasses the use of various imaging technologies for the diagnosis of illness in humans and animals.

Medical physicists, imaging technologists, and radiologists collaborate to use this technology to answer questions raised by referring clinicians, with the ultimate goal of providing accurate and specific diagnoses to the patient. Medical physicists ensure the optimal and safe use of technology in patients. Imaging technologists are expertly trained in the use of specific imaging equipment used for acquisition of medical images.

Radiologists are physicians with specialized training in the interpretation of medical images. The radiologist must combine knowledge of imaging physics and anatomy with a broad fund of medical knowledge to arrive at a diagnosis relevant to the patient's clinical presentation. In this capacity, the radiologist serves as a consultant to referring physicians. Therefore, effective communication between the referring clinician and the radiologist is vital in all stages of imaging. This communication ideally starts even before a diagnostic study is ordered, when the optimal imaging study can be chosen for the patient based on the clinical question after consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of the different imaging modalities available.


Like other aspects of clinical medicine, image interpretation combines subjective and objective information to reach a diagnosis. In some cases, this results in a single diagnosis.

In most cases, however, there is a list of diagnoses that must be arranged in the order of likelihood, and require additional imaging, clinical, or pathological evaluation.

A firm grasp of the capabilities of the image storage and display ...

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