CT Scan vs MRI

We have different image capture technologies in the area of science including x-rays, CT scan, and MRI. All of these image capture technologies have different uses depending on the circumstances.

CT Scan and MRI

We have different image capture technologies in the area of science including x-rays, CT scan, and MRI. All of these image capture technologies have different uses depending on the circumstances.

In this segment, we will focus on the difference of CT scan and MRI technologies. And for a brief introduction, let us compare the two technologies first-hand.

MRIs or magnetic resonance imaging use radio waves to capture images, while CT (computed tomography) scan use x-rays for image capturing.

The two have quite lower risk than other image capture technologies, but as we’ve mentioned before, they have different use depending on the circumstances, plus each of them may be a better option depending on the situation.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

To view the inside parts of your body, health experts use MRIs. This image capture technology uses radio waves and magnets to diagnose conditions as well as to view the inside parts of the body specifically with the brain, breast, heart, ankles, wrists, blood vessels, and joints.

The MRI works by sending a radio frequency and magnetic field to the body, which passes through water molecules and fats. An image of the inside body parts is then translated into the machine through the radio waves that are transmitted to the receiver of the MRI. Then the doctors or other health professionals can diagnose the health conditions of a patient.

Patients are often asked to lie still during the MRI scans. They are also offered some earplugs or headphones because MRI is typically loud. The ear equipment will make the noise more bearable as the patient undergo the procedure of the machine.

According to Dr. Ulrich Rassner, a radiologist, MRI is not dangerous. In fact, FDA provides specific guidelines that performers can follow. One that is included in the guidelines is the amount of energy that can be put in a patient. Dr. Rassner also noted that MRI is not associated with the risk of cancer as there is no ionizing radiation in it.

CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

Other people referred CT scan as CAT scan. It is a form of an x-ray machine, but fancier x-ray machine, which typically used for monitoring cancer and finding internal bleeding, tumors, and bone fractures.

Like MRI, patients are asked to lie down during the procedure of CT scan. The table that they are asked to lie to will then move through the CT scan. As the patient goes inside of the machine, it will start taking cross-sectional images of the patients’ inside parts.

It was referred to as a fancier X-ray machine because it typically captures an individual X-rays, in which the computer assembles by itself to have a cross-section examination of the patient. It is as if the doctor is cutting through the complex anatomy of the patient. Moreover, it is very much helpful in this terms, as for instance, a facial bone fracture occurred, CT scans will be able to see through the difficult overlapping face structures in greater detail; additionally, doctors may provide for the necessary treatment of the said misfortune.

CT Scan Versus MRI

Comparing the two machines, CT scans are relatively cheaper than MRIs. However, MRIs are considered more detailed than CT scans. The X-rays use is the notable difference between the two machines.

MRI might be more detailed, but it also has limitations like the CT scan. With the use of MRI, experts can see through body parts that are basically in water and fats like tissues. For more elaborate explanations, a health professional can see a patient’s bone marrow but not his or her bone. In the CT scan case, it can access and examine the bone but not the inwards parts of bone (i.e. bone marrow).

Additionally, the risk and benefits of the two machines have also variations.


The risks of using CT scans and MRI are dependent on how the imaging is made as well as the type of imaging.

The following are the common risk of CT scans:

  • CT scans can be harmful to a fetus.
  • There might also be a possible reaction to the use of dyes.
  • Its small doses of radiation are also risky.

But regarding the amount of radiation that CT scan sends when performed, truly that CT scan has higher radiation than your normal X-ray machines, but instead that health experts decided that they needed a better picture for the examination, using a CT scan firsthand is better because there will be no additional radiation to pass through a patient’s body.

If a patient is undergoing an MRI scan, he or she should tell the doctor if he or she has the implants such as IUD, pacemaker, eye implants, and artificial joints prior to the procedure. It is because MRI has the following risks:

  • Hearing impairment may result from the loud noise that the machine produces.
  • During a long MRIs procedure, patients might increase body temperature.
  • Metals might react due to magnets.
  • Patients may develop a claustrophobic condition.


The capability of CT scans and MRIs are both to have an internal body structures view. Nonetheless, the CT scans advantage is its fast response, plus its ability to provide images of skeletal structures, tissues, and organs.

On the other hand, MRIs are most preferred by doctors because of the more detailed picture that it can provide. The pictures help the doctors to easily identify the abnormal tissues within the body.

So, what to choose between the two machines?

MRI is more expensive and will take long hours to perform. An examination through MRI use will most likely take 50 minutes or more. CT scan, on the other hand, is much cheaper and faster. It will most likely take 10 seconds only to accomplish.

However, based on the patients’ symptoms, doctors will recommend the appropriate scanning machine for him or her.

For instance, if a patient has a herniated disks, soft tissue issues, and torn ligaments—anything related to the ligaments, organs, or soft tissue—and doctors are requiring a detailed image of the mentioned parts, then most probably, that doctor will suggest an MRI.

But if doctors need a general image of body parts such as internal organs, or cases like head trauma or fracture, doctors will highly go for CT scans.

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