Radiopaedia Blog : Social media

I am a great believer in the use of social media in medicine. There really is no better way to bring continuing professional development into your day than by reading a few tweets, sharing some cases and having discussions with colleagues across the world.

If you are like many health professionals I meet, then you are probably intrigued by Twitter but are not quite sure where or how to begin. Well, luckily there is now a great little lecture series to help you flap your fledgling twitter wings!  

Radiologist Dr Jenny Hoang (@JennyKHoang) and pathologist Dr Sara Jiang (@Sara_Jiang) recently presented a Duke Medicine grand round exploring the use of Twitter in Medicine. Their three lectures are packed full of great tips. Take a look and I hope to meet some of you on Twitter soon. 

Dr Andrew Dixon (@DrAndrewDixon)   


The concept of 'free open access medical education' or #FOAMed emerged several years ago in the world of social media. It is a mechanism by which individuals, websites and organizations can act as a community to share and engage with free open access medical education material. Recently a group of radiologists and radiology trainees on Twitter have applied this concept directly to radiology with the creation of #FOAMrad, standing for 'free open access radiology education'.

What #FOAMrad is and is not

#FOAMrad is the sharing and discussion of free open access radiology education material using the online world of social media and blogs. It is not owned by any individual or company, it is merely a concept and a community. #FOAMrad is not a mechanism for the illegal sharing of copyrighted material. It should only be used to share openly accessible information and should respect copyright and creative commons licences where applicable. #FOAMrad should not be used to promote 'for-profit' ventures.

Founders of #FOAMrad

Many have been involved in the early adoption of the term including: 

What is @FOAMrad?    

A group of radiologists have created the twitter handle @FOAMrad to help facilitate the promotion and use of #FOAMrad on Twitter. Currently the @FOAMrad account retweets cases from radiologists using the hashtags #Rad2B and #RadBasics:

  • #Rad2B: these cases are designed for registrars and residents about to sit board level exams e.g. US boards, FRCR part 2B, FRANZCR part 2, etc
  • #RadBasics: these cases are for beginners e.g. medical students, non-radiology doctors, physiotherapists, radiology technologists, nurses, etc
How to get involved

As this is a community and a concept you are free to get involved in any way you like. You can join the existing events on Twitter by following the hashtags #FOAMrad, #Rad2B and #RadBasics, and by following the @FOAMrad team. If you want to create your own #FOAMrad tweets with a new subgroup hashtag then you are most welcome. 

I'm a radiologist, can I use @FOAMrad?

If you are a radiologist and would like to share cases and have them retweeted by @FOAMrad then please do the following;

  • start your tweet with "CASE:"
  • always tag the tweet with "@FOAMrad"
  • add a hashtag to indicate your target audience, eg "#Rad2B" or "#RadBasics"
  • tag a few people who you want to engage with
  • if using a photo/image it can be a more efficient use of characters to tag people in the photo rather than in the tweet itself
  • once the discussion is ended, reply to your original tweet with the answer using the same format as the original case ie. "ANSWER: Hydronephrosis. Read more here: link #RadBasics @FOAMrad"
  • always use free open access sources for the answer link; avoid information that is behind a log-in or pay wall

The @FOAMrad team will endeavor to retweet all high quality "CASE" and "ANSWER" tweets by radiologists that meet this format. If a radiologist is consistently meeting this standard then it is possible for them to be given access to the @FOAMrad account to make the process more efficient.


Dr Andrew Dixon is a Radiologist at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He is social media editor for, and among other things, has founded the successful Radiology Signs project on FacebookTumblr and Twitter and the Radiology Channel on YouTube.  

NB: Opinions expressed are those of the author alone, and are not those of his employer, or of

This week a radiologist's campaign to become a US senator was thrown into controversy by reportedly 'gruesome' x-rays he posted on Facebook. In a filmed interview, journalist Tim Carpenter confronted Milton Wolf with x-rays and comments he posted on Facebook several years ago. Despite claiming the x-rays were shared for educational purposes, it seems clear that the images, including one of a gunshot decapitation, were mainly intended as entertainment. 

I'll leave you to judge the specifics of Wolf's actions for yourself (some aspects I personally don't condone), but my interest in this issue is more broad.

As a website built upon collaborative contributions, contains many 'entertaining', 'confronting', 'gruesome' and downright 'WTF' medical images that serve little educational purpose. And yet these images contain no patient identifiers and abide by HIPAA guidelines. I myself have contributed medical images of such nature to this site and as social media editor i have overseen the sharing of some of these images across our social media network - and yes, they usually prove very popular! 

Just yesterday, journalist Caleb Garling published a piece about Radiopaedia in the San Francisco Chronicle, clearly inspired by the 'bizarre' nature of some of our images. With the Radiopaedia site and social media network rapidly expanding, I expect mainstream media exposure like this will only increase, placing the site's content more and more in the realm of the general public. 

And so for a site that primarily aims to educate health professionals, is the publication of occasional images of 'questionable' clinical value appropriate? Is it just a little harmless fun? Is it right for the public to be shown or have access to these images? Or should we as radiologists and other health professionals enforce upon ourselves a degree of professionalism beyond that of simply maintaining patient confidentiality? 

I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on the issue. My personal philosophy has always been that as long as what I am sharing or saying brings no harm, then exposing others to the quirkier or squirmier sides of radiology is not a terrible thing. But perhaps with the new popularity of Radiopaedia, a more considered approach is required on my part. 



Dr Andrew Dixon is a Radiologist at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He is social media editor for, and among other things, has founded the successful Radiology Signs project on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter and the Radiology Channel on YouTube.  

NB: Opinions expressed are those of the author alone, and are not those of his employer, or of

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