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CT vs MRI scans

When it comes to injuries and diseases that require doctors to see past the surface of the body, patients are often offered either an MRI or a CT scan.

Patients should be aware of the two types of scans to make informed decisions about their health.

How MRI Machines Works

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The scan uses a pulsing magnetic field to create images of the inside of your body.

The constant magnetic field that is produced from the machine bounces off of fat and water molecules in the body. It then creates radio waves that are transmitted to a machine and translated into an image of the body.

What to Expect When Getting an MRI

When it’s time for your MRI, you will slide into the machine while lying down. There are several types of MRIs, including standing machines and machines that require the patient to lie on his or her back. While getting an MRI the patient must be still be receive the best reading.

MRIs are typically used to diagnose issues with joints, the brain, heart or blood vessels. MRIs produce a loud sound when creating images, so it is likely that the technician will give you a pair of ear plugs to prevent any noise-related discomfort.

How CT Scans Work

CT stands for computerized tomography. Also known as a CT scan, this type of scan combines multiple x-ray images taken from different angles around the body. A computer processing system then puts the cross-sectional images together to create a more detailed picture than a plain x-ray would.

What to Expect When Getting a CT Scan

While not completely silent, CT scans are much quieter than MRIs. The machine is open and moves around an individual as he/she lies down. A special dye may need to be ingested or injected to help highlight the area on the body being examined.

CT scans are typically used to diagnose bone fractures and tumors, to monitor cancer and to find internal bleeding.

Main Differences between MRIs and CT Scans

Both CT and MRI scans are low-risk procedures, but there are some key differences.

  • MRI and CT scan machines look very similar because of their donut shapes; however, they work differently and produce varied images.
  • CT scans use x-ray technology instead of a magnetic field to produce images of the patient’s organs and bones. The use of the x-ray technology means radiation is used instead of magnetic fields.
  • MRIs typically last 30 minutes, whereas CT scans typically last around five minutes.
  • CT scans are more widely used, as they are typically less expensive.

​Be sure to speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have about receiving either of these types of scans.​​

Pediatric Neurology