Radiologists on TV: What to believe and what not to believe

Radiology is relied upon daily in both the real world and medical dramas, but radiologists don’t often play a central role. Have you ever wondered just how much you can believe about how radiology is portrayed on TV? Here are some common themes about radiology on TV and what you should (and shouldn’t) believe.

All Doctors Read X-Rays

Don’t believe it! If you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll often see the trauma surgeons huddled around the CT images and making a diagnosis without a radiologist in sight. In the real world, medical images are interpreted by a radiologist, who has received extensive education in imaging techniques and interpretation. Some findings, like a severely broken bone, may be easy to see right away, but other conditions may be much more subtle. A radiologist’s training and experience help them to provide more detailed interpretations.

Radiologists are Busy

Believe it! When your favorite medical drama depicts doctors being pulled in multiple directions throughout the day, that’s pretty accurate. The use of medical imaging has exploded in recent years—and with good reason—imaging allows physicians and referring providers to understand what is happening inside the body quickly and without invasive surgery. Radiologists must keep up with the demand. Not only do radiologists read images, they also consult with other physicians and may also perform certain procedures.

Radiologists are Paged in the Middle of the Night

Believe it! However, this does depend on what kind of hospital the radiologist works for. At larger hospitals, there are enough exams performed throughout the night to keep a radiology group busy 24/7. However, at smaller or less busy hospitals, it just doesn’t make sense to keep a radiologist up all night for the possibility of one or two studies. Radiologists at smaller hospitals are on-call during the night and when a study needs to be interpreted, the radiologist is paged to wake up and log in to provide a report.

Looking at Radiology Films Against the Light

Don’t believe it! The next time you see your favorite TV radiologist holding a piece of film up to the light, know that he or she is probably using outdated technology. Most modern medical imaging equipment makes use of advanced computer software. Radiologists view images on a computer screen, which gives them the ability to scroll through a series of images quickly and easily without walking across the room to see all the images.