What’s the Difference Between an MRI and a CT?

Diagnostic imaging scans can seem intimidating and confusing to people, especially when a doctor recommends a scan to diagnose a health concern.  We understand your concerns and are here to clear up the difference between two of the most popular scans recommended by doctors, CT scans and MRI’s.

First, what exactly is an MRI and a CT scan?

A CT (also known as a CAT Scan or Computerized Axial Tomography) scan is usually used for bone injuries, lung imaging, chest imaging, and cancer detection. They’re used often for emergency procedures because it’s fast.

An MRI (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is used for create internal images of soft tissue (ligaments, tendons, spinal cord, brain tumors, etc.). MRI’s can take up to a half hour and is usually more expensive than CT scans and other x-rays. MRI’s are common because they do not use any radiation that may be potentially harmful.

How do these machines work?

MRI machines use a magnet to send radio waves to read the energy produced by the water molecules as they re-align themselves after each pulse of radio waves. That data actually creates the 2D image of the axis of the body. Since there’s essentially no water in bones, they don’t have an image, which is where the black space comes in.

CT machines use x-ray waves, which rotate around the patient, sending waves towards the “x-ray detector” on the other side of the patient. The beam goes through the patient, and the detector receives the image, measuring the strength of the beam about 1000 times per second. The comparisons of the beams create the image.

What are they used for?

CT scans are most useful to examine people who may have internal injuries from a traumatic incident similar to a car accident. CT scans can be used to visualize various parts of the body, allowing it to assist in diagnosing diseases and injuries.

MRI’s use magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images that assist radiologists and doctors in viewing organs and tissues within the body. MRI’s are helpful when recognizing any bleeding or swelling surrounding a specific region.  They can also assist in showing any abnormalities in the part being examined.

CT scan and MRI’s may differ, but these diagnostic imaging scans help doctors and radiologists to diagnose and help their patients. If you’re looking for the best in diagnostic imaging, we offer CT scans and MRI’s at Rosetta Radiology that are held to the highest quality. 

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