Radiology: looking beneath the surface

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stuart Bright
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 2nd Medical Group’s radiology team helps diagnose internal injuries thanks to their advanced scanning machines.

“We are the eyes of the providers in the clinic,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Christenson, 2nd MDG x-ray technician.

At the 2nd MDG, radiology performs x-rays, ultra sound and computed tomography (CT) scans. These capture imagery of bones, tissue or anything inside a patient’s body when an injury may be present but not visible. Each means of gathering imagery are used in different circumstances. For instance, x-rays use radiation to take pictures of a patient’s bones while ultrasounds use sound waves to look for tissue damage.

“Each component gives you something different, that’s why in many cases we have to use several components to see what is truly wrong with the patient,” said Master Sgt. Kathy Pate, 2nd MDG diagnostic imaging flight chief.

“There are a lot of things you can’t see in an x-ray, but can see in an ultra sound like a hernia,” Christenson added. “If you were to do an abdominal x-ray on someone looking for a hernia, you wouldn’t be able to see it. X-ray is for major issues in bones.”

A CT scan uses a combination of X-rays and a computer to create pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues.

“The CT machine uses radiation that goes around the entire body to create a three dimensional image,” said Staff Sgt. Parry Algarin, 2nd MDG x-ray technician. “When you look at the pictures it is like looking at slices of bread.”

All technicians are trained to x-ray patients, but they can return to their technical school to specialize in another form of radiology. Specialties that are not available at Barksdale include mammography, MRI scans and nuclear medicine.

Currently the department is missing a radiologist, which has proven to be a challenge.

 “We do not have an in house radiologist, who are the doctors who read and interpret the images we take, whether it be CT scans, x-rays and ultrasound,” Algarin said.

According to Pate, this isn’t just a setback for the 2nd MDG, but other bases around the Air Force.

“What has done Air Force wide is putting radiologists at 10 different bases,” Pate said. “All of the smaller bases are sending their images to one of those 10 bases.”

But even without a radiologist, the department still gets the job done. They send imagery and receive a diagnosis within days, and in emergency cases, within hours.

When a doctor suspects their patient may have an injury beneath the surface, radiology will uncover the mysterious condition.

“My favorite part of the job is being the detective,” Pate said.