What is a radiologist?

A radiologist is a doctor who interprets medical images, such as X-rays, ultrasound CT scans and MRI scans. Radiologists can also treat patients using this type of technology.
A radiologist may specialise further to qualify as an interventional radiologist, enabling them to carry out a wide range of image-guided procedures, such as inserting stents, treating varicose veins and taking liver biopsies, amongst many other procedures. It’s reassuring to know that radiologists undergo extensive professional training. This starts with their medical degree, and is followed by an internship, residency and vocational training lasting five years, at the end of which they gain a fellowship of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.

Difference between radiologist and radiographer

As they have such similar names, it’s easy to see why the roles of radiologist and radiographer get confused.

Radiographers carry out imaging tests like an X-ray, for example, while a radiologist is the doctor who will interpret them and give a diagnosis based on what they identify.

You may be wondering, “What is radiology used for?” One of its primary uses is for diagnosing patients, so in this case, small doses of radiation are used to create a picture of what’s going on inside a patient’s body. For example, an X-ray can determine whether a patient has broken a bone, a CT scan can identify tumours or internal bleeding and ultrasound can diagnose cysts. Ultrasound is also used in the course of a woman’s pregnancy to view a developing foetus and check its growth.

Diagnostic radiology can also see how well your body is responding to a certain treatment, for example if you are undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Do I need a referral to see radiologist?

Yes, in most cases, you will need a referral from a general practitioner, specialist or another healthcare practitioner such as a nurse, dentist or physiotherapist to see a radiologist.

How much do common x-rays, scans and ultrasound scans cost?

The cost of seeing a radiographer will differ according to the healthcare facility you attend, the kind of imaging you have, where your referral has originated and the medical issue that the imaging refers to.

For most common imaging procedures like X-rays, you are unlikely to have to pay anything as they will be covered by Medicare.

If you are having more involved tests, you may have to pay out-of-pocket expenses.

Ultrasound can be used to investigate potential issues with organs, vessels and tissues. If your doctor has referred you for an ultrasound you can call the clinic(s) they recommend to find out costs. For pregnant women, Sydney Ultrasound for Women has a comprehensive list scans on offer along with cost and Medicare rebate. This gives a good indication of how much to budget, no matter which clinic you choose to attend.

CT scan costs vary depending on which part of the body is being dealt with. If your GP refers you for a CT scan, it is likely that a Medicare rebate will apply. Your gap payment may range from anywhere between $50 to more than $350 dollars. However it’s wise to shop around as some practices offer bulk billed CT scans.

MRIs are more complex scans that are used for different parts of the body. Your GP will usually refer you for an MRI and as such a Medicare rebate will likely apply, however gap payments can be considerable, ranging from $100 -$500.

It’s always best to find out exactly what your out-of-pocket expenses will be before you make your radiology appointment.

How do I find a radiologist?

If your GP refers you for one of the digital imaging scans discussed above or they feel you would benefit from the expert opinion of a radiologist, you are likely to want to do some research yourself.

Whitecoat enables you to search for radiologists by preferred location and read reviews and star ratings from past patients. You can then make an enquiry and talk through any questions you have before making an appointment.

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