Woman Getting an Imaging Scan | Treasure Valley Hospital

The Difference Between MRI & CT Scan

When your doctor needs to take an in-depth look in order to try to get to the root of a health issue you may be having, they will generally recommend that you have either an MRI or a CT scan. Choosing whether you should have an MRI or a CT scan is based on certain factors. Each uses different equipment and methods to check for specific illnesses and abnormalities in order to answer the questions that are vital in determining the cause of your condition. 

Here is a brief summary of what an MRI or CT scan is:

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

An MRI uses two powerful magnets to create pictures of the organs and blood vessels. The affected area is positioned between these magnets. As electricity passes through the gradient coils of the magnets, it causes a loud knocking sound. Therefore, you may be provided with earplugs or a headset to listen to music in order to drown out the noise. The scanner creates a detailed image via computer and is then reviewed by a radiologist.

Here are a few things an MRI can detect:

  • tumors
  • broken bones that were not found on an X-ray
  • musculoskeletal conditions
  • diseases of the organs and soft tissues
  • arthritis

CT Scan (Computerised Tomography)

A CT scan produces images of the affected area of the body via a series of X-Rays. These X-Rays are more detailed than regular X-Ray in that they are 2-dimensional. The cross-sectional images are scanned and collected via computer, and then interpreted by a radiologist.

Here are a few things a CT scan can detect:

  • internal bleeding
  • a stroke
  • cancer
  • kidney stones
  • blockage

Some of the differences between an MRI and a CT scan are:

An MRI will show a clearer picture of soft tissue and can provide more detail about injured ligaments or tumors.

The CT scan can help to see through the density of an affected area, which can assist the doctor in evaluating how far along the cancer has spread, or how badly a bone may be damaged.

Your doctor will decide on which procedure is best for you, as there are different situations that can be a deciding factor, such as pregnancy, having a pacemaker, or other metallic implants.

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