Using radiology to teach physiology

John W. Nay, Vasantha D. Aaron, Richard B. Gunderman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

3 Scopus citations


Background: Radiology is well poised to play an important role in the teaching of physiology, one of the core disciplines of medicine. Physiology is an absolutely foundational medical discipline that informs every diagnostic test and therapy physicians prescribe, and radiology teaches a deep understanding. Methods: Radiologic case studies using pairs of radiologic cases, one illustrating normal physiology and the second illustrating pathophysiology, are presented. The presentation uses the 2 radiologic images (normal and pathophysiology) to focus on 4 broad physiologic principles that apply across all organ systems. These principles are (1) homeostasis, (2) biologic energy use, (3) structure-function relationships, and (4) communication. Two examples are given for each of the principles. Results: Radiologic case studies teach the integrating principles. A demonstration of the first integrated principle, homeostasis, is given. For example, cerebral perfusion scintigraphy measures blood flow to the brain and can determine if flow is disrupted. Normal results will demonstrate the tracer in the arteries and veins during the flow phase and accumulation of the tracer within the brain during the delayed imaging. A second clinical example of homeostasis is erythropoiesis. Two radiologic examples of each principle (normal and pathologic) support the use of radiology to teach physiology. Conclusion: Radiologic case studies can illustrate physiologic principles in ways that can enhance students' grasp of both the physiology and its role in helping physicians take better care of patients. Working with actual images brings physiology to life; the learning is relevant and practical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-123
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • education
  • educators
  • medical students
  • Physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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