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What Does a Radiographer Do?

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 22, 2019

If you’ve ever gotten an X-ray, mammogram, or another kind of imaging test, you’ve probably met a radiographer. They’re also called radiologic technologists, radiology technicians, or RTs. They use medical equipment to make images of the inside of your body.

They work with a doctor called a radiologist, who decides what type of pictures you need and then interprets them. This helps your primary doctor diagnose and treat you if something’s wrong.

A registered radiographer has at least an associate’s degree or higher from a college or a hospital-based program, and they’ve passed a national certification exam. They also have to take continuing education courses to stay registered.

If your doctor decides that you should have an imaging test, you’ll likely go to a doctor’s office, hospital, or outpatient clinic. Once you arrive for your appointment and meet your RT, they can answer any questions you have about what will happen. Then they’ll help you get ready. They may ask you to change into a hospital gown and take off any items that could show up in the images, such as glasses, jewelry, or clothes with metal zippers.

Not all imaging tests use radiation to see inside your body. But if you need one that does, like an X-ray or CT scan, the radiographer should help you put on lead garments to shield the rest of your body. Then they should move you into a position that allows them to get the most accurate pictures while exposing you to the least amount of radiation possible. Speak up if you have any questions or concerns about your safety.

Radiographers can specialize in a specific type of imaging. These tests include:

X-ray: A two-dimensional black-and-white picture of bones, organs, or tissues. It can help spot a number of problems, ranging from broken bones to swallowed objects to pneumonia.

CT scan: A series of more detailed X-ray pictures shot from different angles. A computer can combine them to make a 3D image. The test can help diagnose a variety of internal injuries or diseases.

MRI: A scan that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to make images. In some cases, it can create clearer pictures than X-rays or CT scans.

Bone densitometry: A test similar to an X-ray that checks the strength (density) of your bones. It helps to check for osteoporosis.

Sonography: An exam that uses sound waves to make pictures of internal organs and tissues. It can make images of a baby in the womb during pregnancy.

Nuclear medicine: Tests that involve an RT giving you a shot of a radioactive solution to help images show up better. They can help diagnose conditions like cancer and heart disease.

Interventional cardiology: A technique that creates a continuous X-ray image (almost like a movie) of your heart or the blood vessels around it. It helps guide doctors during procedures like angioplasty and stenting.

Beyond creating medical images, some radiographers give radiation therapy for cancer. Others specialize in figuring out the right dose of radiation to give for the treatment.

No matter what type of radiographer you visit, they should be able to explain your test or treatment clearly and discuss any worries you have.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists: “What Do Radiologic Technologists Do?” “Bone Densitometry,” “Sonography.”

American Society of Radiologic Technologists: “What Do Radiologic Technologists Do?”

CDC: “Radiation in Medicine -- Medical Imaging Procedures,” “Chest X-Ray: Test Details.”

Cleveland Clinic: “What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?”

FDA: “Fluoroscopy.”

International Atomic Energy Agency: “Responsibilities of Health Professionals.”

Mayo Clinic: “MRI,” “CT Scan.”

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering: “Computed Tomography (CT).”

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