Do you need an MRI or a CT-Scan?

By HealthPriceCompare - Apr 19, 2023

MRI and CT scans are powerful, safe and pain free non-invasive imaging techniques that help diagnose a wide range of medical conditions by locating the problem, confirming the diagnosis, and guiding treatment. Both types of scans have similar uses but produce images in different ways.

How Are They Different?

An MRI scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce the image while a CT scan uses x-rays. This means that an MRI uses magnetism while a CT scan uses radiation. This means that anyone with metal in their body such as a pacemaker, implant or stent need to ensure the material is MRI safe. Similarly, for those who are sensitive to radiation, a CT scan may not be the appropriate diagnostic procedure.

What Other Tradeoffs Exist Between MRIs and CT Scans?

MRIs produce a better image than CT scans but can take up to 45 minutes or an hour to complete the procedure. It is best for examining soft tissues.

CT scans are more common and less expensive than MRIs. The procedure itself usually takes about 15 minutes and is best for looking at organs and bone fractures.

What Imaging Study Is Right for Me?

For cases that require a more detailed image, an MRI without intravenous contrast is the preferred test. It doesn't involve radiation, and can clearly show the spinal cord, nerves, discs, and other relevant structures. If the MRI is abnormal, another one using intravenous contrast is usually prescribed.

What Else Should I Know?

If you have been insured or experienced trauma, the best initial imaging study is an inexpensive x-ray. X-rays are more rapidly accessible than MRIs or CT scans and can help quickly diagnose injuries and masses inside the body.

In addition, imaging tests are expensive and should be limited when radiation exposure is a concern.

For many people, the source of their health issue can usually be improved with conservative treatment such as medication, lifestyle changes or physical therapy.