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What Is a Medical Imaging Technician?

A medical imaging technician looking at an X-ray.
An MRI machine, which is used for medical imaging.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A medical imaging technician operates equipment to take pictures of the inside of a patient's body. Technicians work with doctors and other medical professionals to determine imaging needs in a given case and provide information for patients about the process and what to expect. Medical imaging can play a key role in diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease. Technicians have special training to produce high quality images with a minimum of risk to patients and other personnel.

When a medical imaging technician arrives at work, the first step is often to inspect the imaging equipment. Many imaging centers have multiple technicians, who can exchange information with each other about problems, maintenance needs, and other issues. The technicians wear monitoring devices if they work with equipment like X-ray machines so they can keep track of their radiation exposure. Once the medical imaging technician has checked equipment over, it is possible to start seeing patients.

Most facilities use a triage system to balance emergency needs with more routine scans. A car accident victim, for instance, might need an immediate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to check for internal injuries and brain damage, which would bump a patient who needs an MRI to check on the progress of surgical healing. The technicians work with a scheduler to see patients in a timely fashion.

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For each imaging study, the medical imaging technician provides information about the test, and operates the equipment. Responsibilities can include the administration of tracer materials for tests that require contrast. Medical imaging technicians can also assist at medical procedures where a doctor needs real time imaging like fluoroscopy or ultrasound to perform a task. Technicians may use a broad variety of equipment in their work and may provide training for medical personnel to increase safety and efficiency in a medical imaging department at a hospital or clinic.

These medical professionals cannot offer a diagnosis to patients, although skilled and experienced technicians may learn to recognize many common medical conditions on imaging studies. They can consult with doctors if a doctor wants more information on an image or is curious to get the technician's take on the result of a medical imaging study. In some cases, a medical imaging technician may decide to return to school for more training to work as a radiologist, a doctor who performs diagnosis with medical imaging and also offers nuclear medicine treatments like radiation therapy for cancer patients.

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