Medical Imaging: Raising the Standard of Patient Care

Over the past three decades, medical imaging has come a long way. Healthcare professionals use medical imaging to get a clearer picture of what’s happening in a patient’s body. Radiology technologists and MRI technologists both play vital roles in helping physicians understand their patients’ conditions.

What is Radiology?

Radiology is the study and use of diagnostic imaging. Physicians use radiology to learn more about the inner workings of a patient’s body. Often, medical imaging can provide valuable insights that can that allow doctors to diagnose and treat health conditions.

Sometimes, radiology is used to pinpoint the location in the body where treatment is necessary. Other times, radiology is used to diagnose a disease or health condition. Radiology is useful both for chronic conditions and acute injuries (such as a swallowed foreign object or a broken bone).

Most people think of X-rays when they hear the term radiology, but the field encompasses several other types of diagnostic imaging as well. MRIs, ultrasounds, CT scans, and PET scans all fall under the umbrella of radiology.

Radiologists are doctors who specialize in medical imaging and work closely with primary care and specialty physicians to diagnose patients. Radiology technologists are medical professionals who assist in the process of diagnostic imaging, often managing machines, preparing patients for their imaging, and guiding patients through the imaging process.

X-Ray Vs. MRI

While both an X-ray and an MRI work to provide a clear picture of what’s happening inside the body, the technologies work differently. An X-ray uses radiation to create a picture of the body. Areas of the body that have a high level of calcium (like teeth and bones) do not allow radiation to pass through, so they appear white on the image created by the X-ray. Soft tissues do allow radiation to pass through, so they appear on the image as a gray or black area. X-rays are great for spotting problems like broken bones or dislocated joints, but they aren’t able to show many other issues that can occur within the body.

An MRI does not use radiation to create an image. Instead, an MRI uses a powerful magnet that sends radio waves through the body. Many MRIs use a contrast agent that’s injected into the body to help issues appear in the image. Some MRIs do not require a contrast agent. The images created by an MRI are far superior to an X-ray in showing soft tissues, blood vessels, and nerves. An MRI is ideal for showing health issues like torn ligaments, inflammation, cartilage loss, sprains, tendon ruptures, and more.

Radiology Technologists and MRI Technologists: The Similarities

Radiology technologists and MRI technologists share many of the same responsibilities. An MRI technologist is a radiology technologist with an education that allows them to assist radiologists through the process of giving patients an MRI.

Both radiology technologists and MRI technologists help patients by:

  • Assisting physicians in providing earlier and more accurate diagnoses: When a doctor can fully grasp the extent of a patient’s condition, they’re able to diagnose patients faster. Research is constantly moving imaging technology forward, allowing physicians, radiologists, and technologists to work together to take patient care to new heights.
  • Making healthcare more affordable for patients: When patients are diagnosed as soon as possible, they can often get less-invasive treatment. This can result in lower medical bills.
  • Providing pain-free diagnostics: Exploratory surgery isn’t just expensive and risky–it’s also painful. The vast majority of medical imaging is completely non-invasive and does not cause the patient any pain. Medical imaging allows doctors to revisit problem areas and monitor progress without putting patients through stressful, and potentially painful, procedures.

Many of the daily tasks completed by radiology technologists and MRI technologists are similar as well.

Daily tasks of a radiology technologist and an MRI technologist may include:

  • Prepare imaging equipment for patients
  • Work with physicians to image the correct areas of patients
  • Prepare patients for imaging
  • Troubleshoot patient positioning to get the images requested by their physician
  • Operate imaging technology

Now, we’ll take a look at how the two roles are different.

How is an MRI Technologist Different from a Radiology Technologist?

While an MRI technologist is a type of radiology technologist, working with MRI patients and operating MRI equipment requires specialized skills that go beyond standard work in the radiology department.

The term MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. This technology allows a machine to use magnetic fields and contrast dye to create detailed images of patients.

MRI technologists work closely with patients who are preparing to undergo an MRI procedure. This often involves injecting patients with the contrast dye that will allow the MRI to pick up their images.

In addition to providing direct patient care, MRI technologists also operate MRI equipment. Since MRI technology is constantly evolving, MRI technologists must keep up with continuing education, allowing them to follow best practices and provide patients with the most up-to-date standard of care.

Your MRI Technologist Education: What to Expect

Thinking about becoming an MRI technologist? You’re in good company. MRI technologists work to provide patients with fantastic care, helping them get the valuable tests they need to improve their health.

You’ll cover a variety of topics in your MRI technologist training, all leading you to pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists MRI registry. This means that when it’s time to look for your new employer, you’ll be able to confidently show that you’ve mastered the skills associated with running an MRI machine and helping patients through the MRI process.

During your MRI technologist education, you’ll cover several topics, including:

  • MRI safety: As an MRI technologist, you’ll be on the front lines of ensuring patient safety from the start to the finish of the MRI process. You’ll screen patients to ensure that they’re good candidates for an MRI, and you’ll need to stay on top of developments in MRI safety.
  • Pathology: Often, you’ll be the first person to see the patient’s MRI, and you’ll need to be able to identify pathologies to know where to direct your images.
  • Anatomy and physiology: You’ll need to have a detailed knowledge of anatomy in order to follow physician instructions and gather images necessary for diagnostic use.
  • Pulse sequences and parameters: These courses will teach you how to operate an MRI machine in a way that takes clear images of each patient.

Ready to Move Your Career Forward? Casa Loma College is Here to Help!

Serving students since 1966, Casa Loma College is here to start your career–or take your current career to the next level. Reach out to us today to learn more about how our MRI technologist program can help you learn the skills you need to thrive in the medical field.