July 25, 2008
Chris Smith, a computer tomography technologist, repositions a patient for another CT scan Thursday at Greenview Regional Hospital.
They’re some of the unseen warriors in the fight against disease.
They work with various types of doctors and see everything from bacterial infections and cancer to orthopedic, neurological and pulmonary illnesses.
They are radiologists, doctors who use medical imaging techniques to help diagnose and treat diseases. The specialty is becoming more and more important in helping patients.
“Patients usually never know they’re seeing a diagnostic radiologist. We’re kind of behind the scenes,” Premier Radiology Services radiologist Kevin Burner said. “There’s nothing we don’t see and no part of medicine in which we’re not involved.”
Burner and Greenview Regional Hospital’s radiology department staff perform a variety of services, including X-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI, nuclear medicine, PET scans, angiography, biopsies and radiofrequency ablation.
“The more we’re involved, the more patients can avoid having extra procedures done,” Burner said.
According to the American College of Radiology’s “My Patient Connection” Web site at www.mypatient.
connection.com, radiologists graduate from accredited medical schools, pass a licensing examination and complete a residency of at least four years of unique postgraduate medical education. They also often complete a fellowship, which involves one or two additional years of specialized training in a particular subspecialty of radiology.
“It’s about more than understanding medicine,” Burner said. “It’s about understanding science.”
Patients are referred to the radiology department by other doctors, so radiologists and technicians see just about anything.
“Radiology has come a long way since I started. It’s gotten to be more than X-ray and bone,” Greenview MRI/CT technician Sherri Simpson said. “We look at almost any part of the body. We could be looking for a cancerous tumor or broken bones.”
Greenview radiology technician Betty Hendricks said when patients go in for tests, she greets them and explains what will happen to help them feel more comfortable.
“I want to give them the best exam that I can,” she said.
Sometimes the technicians see something critical, but they can’t tell the patients. The results go back to the referral doctor, who may or may not want the radiologist to tell the patient what has been found.
“We try not to alarm them. You get attached to patients,” Hendricks said. “You spend a good 20 minutes with them, so you get to know them. They touch my life.”
Some patients said that radiology has helped them escape back pain that they have been having for years.
Edith Parker of Bowling Green said an orthopedic doctor referred her to Greenview for an MRI.
“I thought it was caused by degenerative discs,” she said. “It felt like someone was pinching me so hard, and it was a 24-hour pain.”
Instead, the pain was coming from her facet joint. Parker said Burner did a facet joint nerve block more than a month ago and a facet joint block a little more than a week ago.
“(Burner) has kept me from having surgery,” she said. “It took a radiologist to find my pain.”
Now Parker feels much better.
“I’m in absolutely no pain. Before I couldn’t sit or ride in a car,” she said. “For the first time I can have my grandson and smile at him and not have pain.”
Cynthia Sprouse of Bowling Green said an orthopedic doctor and neurosurgeon sent her to Greenview to find an answer to her lower back pain.
“I’ve had facet injections at various times that worked for me,” she said.
Sprouse developed another problem and turned to Burner, who administered a myelogram procedure to see if there were any abnormalities in her spine. She also had X-rays.
“I’m in physical therapy and doing well,” she said.
Burner sees radiology becoming an even more specialized field in the future.
“It’s impossible to practice without radiology,” he said. “Fifty years ago, radiology was a less vital part of medicine, but radiologists still played an important role.”