Don’t be afraid to ask your radiologist for help

Dont be afraid to ask your radiologist for help

It used to be that radiologists mainly helped out your doctor so that they could figure out what was ailing you. Such is no longer the case.

Nowadays, with the easy access to almost any doctor of any specialty, you can visit your radiologist, obtain a needed study (or procedure, in the case of an interventional radiologist), and never even see your primary physician.

Of course, the main problem with increased access to specialists, is that patients become more acutely aware of the many nuances of health care terminology.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

We radiologists are here for you patients. You are not alone. You needn’t try to decipher our medical jargon using only Google and your high school thesaurus.

If you or a loved one is in need of a radiology imaging study or procedure, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will undoubtedly be anxious, nervous, or worried. These are perfectly understandable emotions. After all, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (H.P. Lovecraft)

A friend asked me recently if I could reassure him about a test his wife had recently undergone. Unfortunately, I had not seen the study and indicated to him that I could not even hazard a guess without more information. He was clearly nervous and hesitated to ask anything else. He did, however, state that a follow-up appointment was scheduled almost two weeks from the original visit. I went home, contacted the director and asked that her appointment be moved up, if it wouldn’t inconvenience other people.

I found the report and images from my friend’s wife’s study. As was originally reported, the findings were indeterminate and she will need another study, an ultrasound, for further evaluation. However, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? I noted that the “spots” that were identified had some “reassuring features.” I described what I saw to my friend and asked him to try to relax as best he could until the follow-up appointment.

He could barely contain his tears of joyful reassurance as he gave me a quick, and unexpected, hug and rushed inside to chat with his wife.

Now, I didn’t do anything profound. I just wanted to help a friend. But it struck me, as seemingly innocuous events sometimes do, that most people go through each day with far less surety than they would like regarding their health care. It is imperative that we help each other to the best of our abilities.

We radiologists train for many years: as many years as general surgeons and more years than primary care and internal medicine physicians.

We work together with your doctors to help you. And we work with you to help you.

So I reiterate, don’t be afraid to ask for your radiologist by name. Find out what they are doing for you.

Thanks for letting us help.

Paul Dorio is an interventional radiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Paul J Dorio, MD.

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  • ninguem

    “clinical correlation suggested”

  • meyati

    To me it seems there is a war between surgeons and radiologists. I’m going through a time, when I’m choosing the radiologist over the surgeon for the fourth time. The tumor board had a party, and they invited everyone but the radiologist. I believe that it was to get a unanimous decision about getting half of my face cut off, including the bone. Why was I told this today? I guess to scare me into the surgery-cause me to have doubts about the doctor-possibly to punish me financially because I have grave doubts about wanting my face removed that way, and possibly spending a year waiting for a prosthetic face. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to keep from having infections in such a massive wound, and the surgeons won’t tell me. The radiologist has already given me the protocol. TG that I took my grandson with me to the surgeon. He asked questions and didn’t let the surgeon deflect. It didn’t dawn on me that I might have further bone removal several more times before the new face was finally made. One radiologist saved me from unnecessary surgery, another one prevented me from having to submit to radical surgery. What ever happens, happens.

  • Suzi Q 38

    Thank you so much!
    I never thought to contact the neuroradiologist that reviewed my MRI’s at the local major teaching hospital.
    My diagnosis is “Mild to moderate central canal and mild to moderate bilateral neural foraminal stenosis….facet hypertrophy….and “myelomalacia.”
    ..This can be further evaluated with a noncontrast CT study.”
    Does this mean that I need a CT scan??
    I guess I should call the neuroradiologist.

    • Paul Dorio

      Interpreting radiology imaging exams is but one component of your care. My goal is to help people to realize that questions about imaging studies can certainly be answered by your radiologist. But remember that the radiologist’s expertise is the imaging studies and some components of the diseases that may be identifiable on those studies. If you desire, you should certainly attempt to seek out your radiologist. But please remember to correlate all discussions and additional questions with your physician, as the other reader stated: “clinical correlation suggested.” What that means, is that radiology studies can’t be interpreted in a vacuum and need the concerted efforts of the whole team of doctors. Good luck!!

      • Steve Lustro

        I wrote a message to my neuroradiologist the other day, and I am hoping that I can make an appointment to see him.

        I also called my neurosurgeon’s office to point out the parts in my report that I found that could use some consideration…for example, I left a message with the P.A. and asked if I should have a CT scan to rule out OPLL.
        Figuring out if my symptoms are due to OPLL, M.S. or spinal stenosis are not good…..None of them are anything I remotely want at the age of 56.
        I enjoyed your article because I always read my radioligist and pathologist reports. They provide valuable information that my doctor usually doesn’t share in depth with me.

        In fact, I order and then read all my physician reports about our visits, just in case I had a brain fog in during each of my appointments. Also, I find that what the doctors tell me in person is very different than what is written in print at times.

        I just never thought to talk to the radiologist directly.

        I am fairly proactive. My initial symptoms were weak legs after a hysterectomy and myelopathies in both hands and feet within a year of my surgery.

        The doctors are well-meaning, but have too many patients and wanted me to go away without a diagnosis with a prescription of Neurontin.

        I told my neuro that while I appreciated the neurontin, I really want to know WHY this is happening so that it doesn’t get worse without treatment.

        He looked at me as if I were a hypochondriac and a royal PITA.

        It took a very brave gastroenterologist who put the puzzle together. I figured I was going to move on to a different teaching hospital that had doctors that would actually listen and help.
        He finally told me to tell my doctors that the problem was with my UPPER spine……..YAY.

        My neuro was so surprised when he got back the results of my MRI’s after a year and a half of my complaining and two rounds of physical therapy.