As a part of their scope of practice, chiropractors in all 50 states and Canada are licensed to perform and interpret X-rays to help them understand sources of various types of health conditions and determine best treatment options for patients.
Diagnostic imaging, formerly known as radiology, is the broad term that encompasses conventional radiographs (X-rays), MRI, CT, ultrasound, and several other tools to visualize pathology within a patient. All chiropractors are trained to read diagnostic imaging of the musculoskeletal system, with a focus on X-rays.
According to Chad Warshel, DC, director of New York Chiropractic College’s Master of Science in Diagnostic Imaging (MSDI) residency program, diagnostic imaging is an important part of the NYCC curriculum as radiology prepares Doctor of Chiropractic students to be a part of an integrated system of patient healthcare.
All D.C. students take various courses in diagnostic imaging, including Spinal Radiology, Extremities Radiology, Bone and Joint Imaging, among others, and may also choose from several interesting electives in imaging specialties.
“Signature courses such as the Sports Module or the radiology electives in Neuroradiology and Pediatric Radiology assist in the formation of a chiropractor who is very well rounded and prepared to face the challenges of practice,” Dr. Warshel said.
In addition, D.C. graduates may apply for the highly competitive (one spot), three-year Master of Science in Diagnostic Imaging residency program devoted to the discipline of chiropractic radiology.
“As a part of their program, residents teach various radiology labs and lectures, participate in didactic and film-interpretation tutorials, and complete rotations in clinics and imaging centers.”
The program culminates in a master’s thesis, including research in a radiology topic of interest. Past residents have researched various topics, such as the accuracy of radiographic leg-length studies, ultrasound of shoulder anomalies and ankle fractures, and radiology education.
“One of the greatest parts of being the Director of the MSDI program is getting to participate in my residents’ research,” exclaimed Dr. Warshel. “Additionally, our radiology team is starting to investigate introducing diagnostic ultrasound more deeply into the D.C. and MSDI curricula, as it has a very strong future in diagnostic imaging of the musculoskeletal system.”
Upon completion of the program, residents receive their master’s degree and are eligible to sit for the Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Board of Radiology (DACBR) examination. This specialty in diagnostic imaging gives them the advanced credential to consult with clinical chiropractors by interpreting all of their patients’ imaging, or help them answer questions or concerns they may have — knowledge that helps clinical chiropractors to better evaluate and manage their patients’ care.
There are a number of career pathways for DACBRs. Many go into practice as a chiropractic radiologist, interpreting imaging — both directly for chiropractors in the field, and for imaging centers. Some choose to go into a split practice, treating patients as well as interpreting imaging, which is what Dr. Warshel, himself a DACBR, did before teaching at NYCC. Others take the educational route, teaching future chiropractors.