CT or MRI?

By Michael

Computerized Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)? Most people don’t always know the differences between the two. At the surface, confusing CT and MRI machines can be understandable. Both are used to take internal images for diagnosis, and both machines share a similar ‘donut’ shape. However, the technology used to obtain images differs between the two, as does the patient's needs for each.

Computerized Tomography- CT

What is it?

Computerized Tomography utilizes X-ray beams and radiation to obtain an image of bones, soft tissue or other internal organs. The radiation that passes through the body creates a digital image. Today, the more advanced CT scans use less radiation than in the past and operate at a faster rate. In comparison to an MRI, a CT scan is less expensive, however both can include significant costs.

When is it needed?

The primary use for a CT is in response to an injury. Due to the machine’s operational speed (about 5 minutes), it can ordinarily be found in a hospital’s emergency room. When not in the emergency room, doctors can use a CT scan to investigate bone fractures or assess the results of a recent surgery. In addition to such uses, a CT scan can also detect forms of cancer in the brain and other parts of the body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging – MRI

What is it?

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine uses strong magnetic fields and pulses from radio frequencies to deliver images of anything from bones, tissue, organs or other internal body structures, including the brain. The images produced by magnetic resonance are more detailed than CT scans. The full process of taking an MRI image takes much longer in comparison to the CT scan. In fact, a full MRI can take from 30 minutes to an hour.

When is it needed?

Unlike the CT scan, the MRI works without radiation, and it obtains a more detailed image of bodily structures. An MRI is preferred when detecting abnormalities in very dense structures, such as the spinal cord or joints. It can also be useful in comparing normal and abnormal body tissue.  The presence or suspicion of aneurysms, strokes or tumors in a patient’s brain can also cause a doctor to order an MRI.

Why are they important?

Patients and hospitals should understand the differences, as both can support the diagnosis process in their own ways. Doctors rely on their individual functions for an accurate image of certain abnormalities and in extreme cases such as cancer, a physician may require both to properly prescribe treatment for a patient. With the right team and support from medical imaging equipment experts, hospitals and health systems can maintain a highly-functioning and successful imaging department that ensures quality image care and meets the needs of the patients.

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