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The diagnostic process is dependent on good clinical skills. But a differential diagnosis can be narrowed, or a clinical suspicion confirmed by proper use of imaging. This should not involve a 'fishing expedition,' where the clinician replaces clinical skills with a series of investigation forms. If the imaging is normal, where do you go? Back to the patient of course, to repeat the clinical assessment, thus wasting valuable time and effort.

There are many principles involved in reading imaging of any type. The tyro clinician needs to develop his or her knowledge of these principles, including understanding how the images were made in the first place. In this section, the modalities of x-ray, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound are broken down into their production, tissue properties, tissue densities, views, and techniques. Other modalities, such as radionucleotide or positron emission tomography scanning, are represented in the images but not detailed in the introduction—their production and reading are relatively simple to understand.

Radiologists are great anatomists as they understand the importance of body structure in their work. The student who attempts to read these images without good anatomical knowledge will become frustrated and eventually become just a 'report reader' who does not fully understand his or her patient.

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