The Web can be practical in radiology

January 15, 2001

From videos to CD-ROMS, educators are offering every possible medium to radiologists attempting to keep up with fast-paced changes and innovations. Without question, the Internet is becoming a very important vehicle to relay substantial current

From videos to CD-ROMS, educators are offering every possible medium to radiologists attempting to keep up with fast-paced changes and innovations. Without question, the Internet is becoming a very important vehicle to relay substantial current information to radiologists. Getting to it in a timely fashion can be a problem, however. Even with the help of the best search engines, you can spend valuable time finding what you want.

I have assembled some tips to help in your search for current information, CME, and answers to clinical questions. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it reflects my experience surfing the Web for useful radiology sites.

Residents seeking National Board-like teaching cases should bookmark the best teaching sites and share them with one another. Unfortunately, the Internet is not yet sophisticated enough to make finding good teaching file sites easy. While many sites offer teaching files, the user has no way of knowing how comprehensive or useful a site is until after committing considerable time to following links. As with many queries, different search engines offer different results. You can spend more time searching for sites than actually learning from them.

Variation in the way Web sites are designed and presented is wide. Some sites allow users to take cases randomly, while others show the diagnosis as hypertext -- making it difficult to "take unknowns." Sites may offer great images but little discussion. On many sites, particularly with radiographs, the pertinent findings are hard to see. The Web shows the findings of CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds better than it shows conventional radiographic findings.

Two good places to start are radinfonet.com and auntminnie.com. Both offer links to many good teaching file sites.

Don't forget to check out http://www.acr.org/frames/f-job.html when you want to take a break from learning to look for that perfect radiology position. This job-listing site of the American College of Radiology is one all residents should become familiar with.

For academic queries, check out Medline from the National Library of Medicine, which is free to use and quite quick. Radiologists who write academic papers already know how much easier literature searches have become on the Web. What used to take an afternoon now takes about three minutes.

The news is promising for the practicing radiologist looking to keep up with the latest developments in radiology technology, management, and policy. diagnosticimaging.com, auntminnie.com, and radinfonet.com are all excellent sources. They are updated frequently and have information relevant to the daily practice of radiology. This is an area in which the Web excels.

Be sure the "recruiter" of the group knows about the ACR job-listing site mentioned above. Most residents are very Web savvy, and in this job market, recruiters need all the help they can get.

The busy radiologist seeking to solve a clinical problem can find it impractical to get the answer using standard search engines. This is where a well-stocked bookmark page comes in handy. When you have a few spare minutes, do some surfing relevant to your area of interest. Start with auntminnie.com or google.com, then bookmark useful sites (not only on your browser but also in your brain) for quick access the next time a clinical question arises.

My main interest is in MRI, and an excellent site that has saved me time and frustration is kanal.arad.upmc.edu/MR_Safety/. Dr. Kanal has provided a searchable database that will retrieve his replies to questions such as, "Is gadolinium safe during lactation?" While I may already feel comfortable handling many of these situations, I breathe a little easier after seeing it in writing by one of the leading authorities.

Anyone working in MRI should also bookmark MRIsafety.com -- Frank Shellock's site. Having Kanal and Shellock at your fingertips goes a long way toward alleviating difficult safety concerns. For MRA protocols, I use the University of Michigan's site.

When you find yourself trying to recall which month's edition of the "yellow journal" has that article particularly relevant to today's case, keep in mind that most major societies have Web sites, and many contain a searchable database of previous articles. If the site is bookmarked on your browser, it will certainly be faster than flipping through the disordered stack of journals at the end of the hallway. You can also print out copies of the articles to leave on your partner's desk.

For the radiologist looking to earn CME credit, the Web offers a few possibilities. Radinfonet.com offers several online reviews that allow users to obtain CME credit. Stanford University now offers online lectures -- check out radiologycme.stanford.edu/online/, which has several free sample lectures. The appropriate software must be installed.

Finally, the Web can be used to learn about other important media. Both edu.symp.com and http://www.cmeinfo.com/ give lists of video lectures. Nearly all universities will post their CME course schedule online along with information about visiting fellowships and their residency program. All the major book publishers have Web sites. If you practice near a teaching hospital, bookmarking that Web site will save you time. Most sites list phone numbers and e-mail addresses for faculty you may contact frequently.

The limitations of the Web are mainly availability and speed. Until all radiologists have fast Internet connections available at their worksites -- not in the library, breakroom, etc. -- the Web will not reach its full potential to enhance the practice of radiology.

My essential bookmarks (along with my uses):

DR. RILEY is director of MRI for the Diablo Service Area at Kaiser Permanente, Walnut Creek, CA.