What is a veterinary radiologist?
A veterinary radiologist is a veterinarian who has a veterinary degree, a year of internship, and a three or four year residency in radiology under their belt. Veterinary school is hard enough to get into, and attracts the best and the brightest. Those who want to specialize in radiology have to undergo another round of competitive applications, and years of training to attain specialist status. Someone who is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Radiology or the European College of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging has had intensive training by other veterinary radiologists. Disciplines include radiology, ultrasound, Computed Tomography (CAT scan or CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR or MRI), and nuclear medicine. A specialist also has to pass an intensive written and oral exam to become board certified. Veterinary Radiologists have extensive experience in obtaining and interpreting images of all types.
If you have a simple problem like the flu, your GP is able to recommend treatment for it. On the other hand, if you have a more serious problem like a badly sprained ankle, your GP will either order an imaging test, like x-rays or MRI, or refer you to a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon. In either case, a radiologist will read any imaging studies that are ordered. Experience in interpreting these images helps to find problems that might otherwise be missed, recommend further diagnostics, and optimize the treatment plan.
In veterinary medicine, GP’s provide the vast majority of services, and do a very good job of providing routine medical care. It is worth knowing that there are specialists available, such as veterinary radiologists, who have the advanced training to perform and interpret complex imaging studies. Is it veterinary radiology or veterinary diagnostic imaging?
When our specialty first started, the major technique available was the x-ray. It used radiation to produce images of the body that saw “inside” the animal in a way never experienced before. Radiographs, or x-rays of our pets give lots of important information about many different diseases, and so the specialty was named.
In the last 20 years, other technologies have allowed us to see inside the animal in different ways. Ultrasound uses sound waves, magnetic resonance imaging (MR) uses the spin of hydrogen atoms, and computed tomography (CT) uses x-rays analyzed by a computer. All of these techniques have expanded the options we have for “looking on the inside”. Proper application of these imaging techniques and interpreting the results require an advanced appreciation of physics and the radiological appearance of disease. Knowledge of disease processes in veterinary medicine has been supported and advanced by these new technologies, so there is a trend to call our specialty “Veterinary diagnostic imaging”. Imaging plays an important role in diagnosing and monitoring treatment in all species of animals. It’s not just x-rays anymore.