How Do MRI Tests And CT Scans Differ?

MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT(computed tomography) scans are two of the most commonly used types of imaging tests for diagnosing certain medical conditions. Both of these tests have worked well at helping physicians diagnose medical problems so they can be treated properly. However, these tests do not produce the same type of results. This is how MRIs and CT scans are different.


MRIs are used to diagnose conditions of the soft tissues in the body. This may include the spinal cord, the brain, and ligaments and tendons throughout the body. The MRI can produce images of any soft tissues throughout the body in very high detail.

CT scans are actually a form of X-ray. They are used to view the condition of the bones, lungs, chest and skull areas. CT scans can diagnose serious medical illnesses, such as cancer. They are commonly done in emergency rooms or primary care physicians offices before a referral is done for a specialist.

Radiation Exposure

CT scans use radiation to produce the images of the area being tested. Normally each test requires a low dose of radiation that is no more than a person would be exposed to in the outside world over the course of three to five years. However, young children and pregnant women are not usually given CT scans so they can avoid the exposure.

MRIs do not use any radiation to produce images, therefore there is no risk of radiation exposure.

Side Effects

Even though a low dose of radiation is used in CT scans, there is a small risk that the patient may suffer from radiation poisoning. However, this is only in rare cases. Otherwise, the CT scan is painless and noninvasive.

With MRIs, a special contrast dye is is given intravenously to make images show up more clearly. Some people may suffer from an allergic reaction to the dye. This procedure should be avoided by those who have kidney or liver disease because the dye can cause further damage.

Diagnostic imaging tests have truly advanced in the last couple decades. Physicians can now discover certain medical problems earlier which allows them to treat them more successfully.

These tests are also normally covered by medical insurance as long as they are deemed medical necessary by a medical professional. With the advances being made in digital technology for the medical field, patients are receiving more thorough treatments to improve their health.

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