When medical imaging is performed, such as MRI, the results are usually relayed to the patient by the doctor who ordered it. This is usually hours, days, or even weeks later.

But what if something emergently wrong is found on the imaging? Would the radiology technician (the guy actually doing the CT scan or the MRI) be qualified/certified to notice anything off in the scan and send the patient to the ER?

1 Answer 1


It is impossible to state yes or no for any specific circumstance, so I will answer generally.

Radiology Technicians have extensive training that is mostly specific to the testing they perform, and there are likely things they are trained to immediately identify as part of that training. However, they are not trained to thoroughly analyze and interpret the imaging the way a radiologist (physician) is.

Imaging workflow typically is like this (at least in the USA):

  1. physician sees patient and orders imaging
  2. technician does imaging tests
  3. the images are sent electronically to a radiologist (specialty of physician), often one who specializes in the body region and modality (CT, MRI, ultrasound etc), who reviews the images and writes a report
  4. that report is sent to the original ordering physician (e.g. an ER or primary care physician)
  5. ordering physician reviews report (and often the actual images as well) and takes appropriate next steps, including informing the patient.

The timing of the above is generally determined by the practice setting (ER, inpatient, outpatient) and whether the test is ordered as "routine" "urgent" or "STAT" by the ordering physician.

If there is a medical emergency that occurs during the testing - for example the patient stops breathing, passes out, or has chest pain - there are emergency protocols (e.g. rapid responses, codes, etc) that the tech will follow.

If the tech notices something urgently concerning on the imaging, there are other protocols. Usually, it is to call the radiologist or ER physician to alert them to look at it immediately. For example as a student, I was with a CT technician who saw an intracranial hemorrhage on head CT with midline shift, and the technician called the ER physician to look at it immediately to confirm the stroke. Then a code stroke protocol was activated.

If the radiologist notes something critical while reviewing the imaging, protocols are in place to contact the ordering physician (or a physician colleague on service at the time) by phone to alert them of the urgent findings.

  • 1
    Yes, that's it. Certified technicians will know what to do. +1
    – Centaurus
    Jun 23, 2019 at 13:50

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