What Is a Medical Imaging Specialist?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The job title “medical imaging specialist” can refer to several different kinds of positions including those of maintenance technicians, people who read medical imaging studies, and people who perform medical imaging for reading by another party. All of these conditions revolve around the use of imaging technology to look noninvasively inside a patient's body. This technology can help doctors with diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. The level of training necessary depends on the kind of work people perform.

An MRI machine, which is used for medical imaging.
An MRI machine, which is used for medical imaging.

Maintenance technicians work with medical imaging equipment to keep it functional. They repair, maintain, adjust, and calibrate as necessary. Typically they also provide orientations and safety training to personnel so they know how to safely use the equipment. For tricky imaging studies, they may assist a technician with equipment setup to get the best images on the first try. They may also be responsible for regulatory compliance, like maintenance of equipment logs and the creation of secure areas to handle radiologically active materials.

Endoscopy is a branch of medical imaging.
Endoscopy is a branch of medical imaging.

Other medical imaging specialists focus on reading imaging studies. They may be medical doctors, pathologists, or other practitioners with training in the review and interpretation of X-rays, CT scans, MRI images, and other types of imaging. They can offer a first or second opinion on an imaging study to help a doctor make a diagnosis, plan a treatment, or determine whether a patient is responding to treatment. This medical imaging specialist work usually takes place in an office setting and may be facilitated with electronic medical records that transfer imaging studies automatically to a computer, instead of requiring people to work with hard copies like x-ray films.

Medical imaging often allows a specialist to make a diagnosis without invasive testing.
Medical imaging often allows a specialist to make a diagnosis without invasive testing.

Another position in this field is that of a technician who performs studies. This can require complex training for a medical imaging specialist who needs to be able to work with contrast agents, sensitive patients, or special equipment. The medical imaging specialist meets with the patient to discuss the study, helps the patient prepare, sets up equipment, and takes the images. Specialists can also assist with real-time imaging for procedures like cardiac catheterization, where the doctor needs to be able to see while doing the procedure.

Some medical imaging specialists focus on reading imaging studies, and can include doctors and pathologists.
Some medical imaging specialists focus on reading imaging studies, and can include doctors and pathologists.

Some medical imaging specialists need to be fully qualified as doctors. Others may be nurses, technicians, or technologists with training varying from a year to four or more years. Their pay scale tends to depend on training and the type of work they perform. Continuing education is typically a part of the job, as a medical imaging specialist needs to keep up with developments in the field to offer the best services to patients and care providers.

Many of the images studied by medical imaging specialists today are digital.
Many of the images studied by medical imaging specialists today are digital.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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