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What is a Pediatric Radiologist?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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A pediatric radiologist is a doctor who has specialized in learning to undertake and interpret the various scans of the body, such as x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized tomography (CT). These doctors tend to work mostly with children, instead of the adult population. Sometimes people who are technicians and who work on these machines are called radiologists or radiologist technician or technologists, but typically the term most applies to people with a medical degree who have far greater ability to do more than run various scans. Instead they interpret them and make diagnoses from them, while directing the work of technicians or technologists.

As with any physician profession, people who want to become a pediatric radiologist must first complete four years of college and then medical school. After becoming licensed physicians, doctors can choose to specialize. A typical path to pediatric radiology is to complete a three internship in radiology and then to complete a subspecialty fellowship of a year or more in pediatric radiology.

This specialty is unlike some other pediatric specialties where first people complete a three-year residency in pediatrics and then a second residency of about the same length. Instead, total training time after medical school can be about four years. It could be longer if physicians choose to specialize in additional areas.

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The pediatric radiologist might choose from a variety of work settings. A few of these doctors maintain private practices, but most work at or with hospitals that have access to the expensive scanning equipment regularly employed in radiology diagnostics. Many doctors are most attracted to work in hospitals with strong pediatric departments of an advanced nature, where the pediatric population treated may have complex diseases that are handled by radiology and other specialties.

In the chosen work setting, a pediatric radiologist works with other specialists to determine what diagnostic scans are appropriate. As mentioned, most times technicians or technologists perform scans, but radiologists are on hand to address any problems during a scan and to interpret its results. Information about what a scan reveals may then be directly communicated to parents of patients or to a patient’s treating physician. Radiologists don’t tend to determine treatment or prognosis based on scans, but they do fully describe, diagnose, and explain what is being visualized to parents or to physicians. They may also determine when other visualization techniques might be needed to better make diagnosis.

It’s not always necessary to see a pediatric radiologist for radiology scans. A simple x-ray may be performed by a technician and evaluated by a doctor with radiology training, only. The specialty can be most useful when complex illnesses exist or it will be necessary to have higher-level knowledge of pediatric radiology in order to arrive at proper diagnosis. People who think their children may benefit from work with a doctor with this subspecialty should look to university hospitals, children’s hospitals, and most teaching hospitals as places to find pediatric radiologists.

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