Diagnostic Radiology Versus Interventional Radiology

Diagnostic radiology is a particular field of medicine focused on identifying the source to a patient’s medical problems. Many symptoms can be vague and non-specific, making these types of diagnostic tests incredibly important to the treatment patients may receive.

Diagnostic radiology may also be utilized as a preventative screening tool, or to monitor the progress of a prescribed method of treatment.

Types of Diagnostic Radiology Tests

Not every individual will be recommended for the same type of diagnostic testing. This decision is based off of your doctor’s professional opinion on which test will offer the most beneficial insights of the patient’s condition. Typically, the area of the body that is exhibiting symptoms, such as pain in the abdomen, will be the first area examined using diagnostic radiology.


Using electromagnetic radiation, an X-ray image is able to provide visuals of an individual’s dense tissues, such as their bones. There are many different kinds of X-rays that can be performed to examine any part of the body.


This is a type of diagnostic imaging that is frequently used to screen women for breast cancer or other abnormalities within the breast tissue. During the exam, the patient’s breast is compressed to spread the tissue evenly while an X-ray is performed. More comprehensive mammographic testing may be ordered if your doctor notices any unusual characteristics in an individual’s standard mammography images.


An ultrasound is able to visualize the patient’s internal organs by emitting high-frequency sound waves. These waves bounce off of a person’s internal structures, which is then translated into a real-time image on a nearby monitor.


A similar type of real-time image may be created by taking continuous X-rays of the body. A contrast dye is also used in this diagnostic radiology test to help internal fluids stand out more sharply in the X-rays.

CT Scan or CAT Scan

A computerized tomography (CT) scan, or a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan may be ordered by your doctor if more detailed analysis of the patient’s internal structures. This type of diagnostic radiology also utilizes X-ray technology, which is implemented using spiral scanners that rotate around the patient while they lie on their back. These X-rays are then compiled to create cross-section images of the body.

PET Scan

A type of nuclear radiology, positron emission tomography (PET) imaging tests use trace amounts of radioactive substances to look for disease within a person’s organs and other types of tissue. This particular test is often recommended along with a CT scan to give additional insights of the patient’s condition.


Magnetic resonance imaging, abbreviated as MRI, is a very common diagnostic test that provides incredibly detailed photos of the body. A single MRI can produce dozens or even hundreds of images, which offer an exceptional understanding of the person’s ailments.

What’s the Difference?

As mentioned, diagnostic radiology hinges on the ability to determine the cause of a patient’s discomfort or abnormal symptoms. Interventional radiology includes these diagnostic tools, and also offers a treatment for those with a clear outcome.

An interventional radiologist is a board certified, fellowship trained physician that specializes in performing minimally invasive treatments involving radiation. Such minimally invasive procedures are completed using one or more of the diagnostic tests already discussed. For example, an interventional radiologist will often position a catheter by watching a monitor in front of them that displays the location of the catheter using X-ray, CT, MRI or other diagnostic imaging technology.

Interventional radiology is often used to treat various forms of vascular disease in addition to uterine fibroids, strokes, or even different types of cancer.

COVID-19 Update

The Governors of Maryland and Virginia have closed all non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Radiology centers have been classified as essential services. 

The health, well-being, and safety of our patients and staff is our top priority. We are committed to helping stop the spread of COVID-19. We have taken steps to continue providing only critical service required to meet the needs of the community.  After very careful consideration we have decided to reschedule all non-urgent imaging appointments as well as consolidate our services by adjusting hours and center openings. To protect everyone, we are closely following the guidance of local, national and global health authorities – including the CDC – in addressing current challenges. As circumstances continue to change, we will keep you informed.

As the situation continues to develop in our community, we want to maintain our ability to provide quality service while safeguarding the health and safety of our patients and staff. We realize these are tenuous times and we are actively monitoring the ongoing situation and following the latest available CDC guidelines. In an effort to limit the risk of exposure for our patients and our employees who may be in high-risk categories, we are asking that you:

Please do not go to a Fairfax Radiology Center/Radiology Imaging Associates location if ANY of the following apply:

    1. You have cough, fever, or shortness of breath
    2. You have traveled by airplane or to New York City in the past 14 days or less
    3. You have had contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who is undergoing a test (results pending) for COVID-19.

Instead, please contact your physician for instructions. Patients may call to reschedule their appointment once they are symptom and fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours without the use of medication.

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