Radiology is a medical speciality that uses medical imaging techniques to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries.

It involves various imaging technologies, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and nuclear medicine.

Radiologists are physicians specialising in interpreting these imaging studies and providing diagnostic information to other healthcare professionals.

What Is Radiology Used For?

  • Diagnosis: Radiology is crucial in diagnosing a wide range of medical conditions. It helps detect and identify diseases like cancer, fractures, infections, organ abnormalities, and other internal injuries or illnesses.
  • Screening: Radiological imaging techniques are often used for routine screenings to detect diseases at an early stage, even before symptoms appear. For example, mammography is commonly used for breast cancer screening, and CT scans are used for lung cancer screening in high-risk individuals.
  • Guiding Procedures: Radiology is used to guide various minimally invasive procedures. For example, during a biopsy, a radiologist may use imaging techniques like ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or CT scans to precisely locate the area to be sampled or guide the insertion of a needle or catheter.
  • Treatment Planning: Radiological imaging is vital in planning treatment strategies. It helps determine the extent of a disease or injury, select appropriate therapies, and monitor the response to treatment over time. It is commonly used in radiation therapy to precisely target and deliver radiation to tumours while sparing healthy tissues.
  • Interventional Radiology: Interventional radiologists use imaging techniques to perform minimally invasive procedures for therapeutic purposes. Examples include angiography (imaging of blood vessels), embolisation (blocking blood vessels to stop bleeding or shrink tumours), and catheter-based treatments for various conditions.
  • Monitoring and Follow-up: Radiology allows healthcare providers to monitor the progression of a disease, evaluate the effectiveness of treatments, and assess the healing process after interventions. Serial imaging scans can help track changes over time.

Why Do I Need a Radiology Scan?

Radiology plays a crucial role in modern medicine by providing detailed images of the body's internal structures. These images help healthcare providers diagnose conditions, plan appropriate treatments, and monitor the effectiveness of therapies.

Radiology is used in various medical fields, including cardiology (heart), oncology, neurology, orthopaedics, and many others. Advances in radiology have improved diagnostic accuracy, reduced invasiveness, and enhanced patient outcomes. Radiology continues to evolve as a critical component of modern healthcare, contributing to diagnosing and managing a wide range of medical conditions.

Do I Need A Referral From a Doctor For A Radiology Procedure?

In the UK, whether or not you need a referral from a doctor for a radiology procedure depends on several factors, including the type of procedure, the healthcare system you are accessing, and whether you are seeking the procedure privately or through the National Health Service (NHS).

For private radiology procedures, a referral is not always required, but it can depend on the private healthcare provider's specific circumstances and policies. Some private providers may accept self-referrals, meaning you can directly contact them to schedule a radiology procedure without a referral from a doctor. However, checking with the specific provider to confirm their requirements is advisable.

It's important to note that certain radiology procedures may have specific guidelines or requirements, and a referral from a doctor may be necessary for medical reasons or to ensure appropriate care. Additionally, a referral can help coordinate your healthcare and ensure the procedure is medically justified.

What Are The Different Types of Radiology?

There are several different types of radiology, each utilising their own imaging modalities and techniques. Here are some of the main types of radiology:

Diagnostic Radiology:

Diagnostic radiology is the most common type of radiology and involves various imaging techniques to diagnose diseases and conditions. Diagnostic radiology includes X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and nuclear medicine imaging.

Interventional Radiology:

Interventional radiology uses imaging guidance to perform minimally invasive procedures for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. It involves angiography, embolisation, biopsies, drain placements, and minimally invasive tumour treatments.

Nuclear Medicine:

Nuclear medicine uses radioactive substances, known as radiotracers, to diagnose and treat diseases. Patients ingest or are injected with these radiotracers, and a special camera called a gamma camera detects the radiation emitted by the radiotracers to create images of the body's internal organs and their functioning.

Radiation Oncology:

Radiation oncology involves the use of radiation to treat cancer and other conditions. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to target and destroy cancer cells or tumours while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

Pediatric Radiology:

Pediatric radiology focuses on imaging techniques for infants, children, and adolescents. It requires specialised child anatomy and physiology knowledge to perform and interpret radiological examinations in pediatric patients.

Musculoskeletal Radiology:

Musculoskeletal radiology specialises in imaging and diagnosing conditions related to the bones, joints, muscles, and soft tissues. It includes techniques such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound to evaluate bone fractures, joint diseases, sports injuries, and musculoskeletal tumours.


Neuroradiology focuses on imaging and diagnosing conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, head, and neck. It involves CT scans, MRI, angiography, and myelography to diagnose and evaluate conditions like stroke, brain tumours, aneurysms, and spinal cord injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

You will generally need an appointment for radiology procedures in the UK. Procedures such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasounds are typically scheduled in advance to ensure that the necessary equipment and staff are available. This is for private radiology procedures and the NHS.

If you are accessing radiology services through the NHS, they are typically free at the point of use for UK residents. However, there may be certain circumstances where charges or fees apply, such as for private accommodations or specific imaging services not covered by the NHS.

If you choose to have a radiology procedure done privately in the UK, the cost can vary significantly depending on the type of procedure and the provider. Generally, prices can range from around £100 to several hundred pounds. Complex or specialised imaging procedures may be more expensive.

Most Common Radiology Procedures