Have you ever had an X-ray? Many, if not most, people have. Perhaps you’ve even had two or more X-ray examinations. And, if you’ve never had one, chances are you will eventually. Regardless of whether you have or not, you’re probably aware of what’s involved. But, do you know that X-rays aren’t the only type of radiological examination? Do you know what the others are? If not, an introduction to radiology terminology would probably be helpful.

Before we discuss radiology terminology in detail, let’s dispel the common misconception that radiology is limited to X-rays, CT scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exams. One need only look at the organizations listed at Radiology.org to get a better appreciation for the various types of radiological exams that exist. Those organizations include:

  • American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology (AAOMR)   [ web site ]
  • American College of Radiation Oncology (ACRO)   [ web site ]
  • American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM)   [ web site ]
  • American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS)   [ web site ]
  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE)   [ web site ]
  • American Society of Echocardiography (ASE)   [ web site ]
  • American Society of Spine Radiology (ASSR)   [ web site ]
  • Association of Vascular and Interventional Radiographers (AVIR)   [ web site ]
  • Society of Breast Imaging (SBI)   [ web site ]
  • Society for Pediatric Radiology (SPR)   [ web site ]
  • Society of Computed Body Tomography and Magnetic Resource (SCBT/MR)   [ web site ]
  • Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (SDMS)   [ web site ]
  • Society of Uroradiology (SUR)   [ web site ] 

Here, then, is some commonly used radiology terminology that can help you to better understand such examinations:


The Mayo Clinic defines an X-ray as follows:

“A quick, painless test that produces images of the structures inside your body – particularly your bones. X-ray beams pass through your body and they are absorbed in different amounts depending on the density of the material they pass through.”

X-rays are primarily used to diagnose broken bones or dislocations.


A type of X-ray imaging which utilizes a fluorescent screen and image intensifier tube to permit imaging of structures (body parts) in motion in real-time.

CT Scan

According to the Mayo Clinic, a CT (computerized tomography) scan:

“Combines a series of x-ray images taken from different angles and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images, or slices, of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body.”

This scan produces images with more detail than those provided by standard X-rays. It is especially suitable to quickly diagnose disease or internal injuries and as a tool to clear a patient for surgery.


“Magnetic resonance imaging involves the use of magnetic resonance to create images of objects such as the body.” A magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy produce pictures of your organs, soft tissue and body structures.


Both exams involve the use of high-frequency sound waves to produce a graphic image. (Fun fact: Sonographic technology was developed during WWII to facilitate the detection of objects under water).

Although most folks are familiar with ultrasound as a device used to determine the age and health of a fetus, sonogram technology is also used in other procedures such as the detection of heart disease.

Should you have questions about radiology terminology or actually require diagnostic imaging, Derry Imaging can meet all of your needs. As an independent diagnostic imaging center, we offer the highest quality technology at a fraction of the cost of hospital imaging centers for procedures including: 3D mammography, bone densitometry, ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs.