Advanced Diagnostic Tools – The Difference Between A CT Scan And An MRI

Advanced diagnostic tools, such as a CT scan or an MRI, allow physicians to scrutinize soft tissues throughout the body. The physician uses this information to diagnose tumors, blood clots, and musculoskeletal disorders. Both an MRI and a CT scanner look similar; however, they are actually quite different.

Advantages of CT Scans and MRIs

A CT scan, also known as Computed Tomography, is used to diagnose cancers, chest problems, and bone injuries. This scan only takes around 5 minutes to complete, making it the preferred choice for emergency situations. The CT scan show bones, soft tissues and blood vessels at the same time. Additionally, a CT scan is not as sensitive to patient movement during the procedure. The cost of a CT scan is a lot lower than that of an MRI.

One of the small disadvantages to the CT scan is the radiation used to produce the images on the scan. Although the radiation is considered safe and minimal, it is not recommended for patients who have repeated exposure to radiation. Additionally, the CT scan should not be used on pregnant women or children unless it is absolutely necessary.

An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses a powerful magnetic field to show dense tissues throughout the body, such as tendons and ligaments. One advantage of this type of diagnostic tool is an MRI does not use radiation. The MRI takes approximately 15 minutes and 2 hours to complete. MRIs offer a much higher detailed image of soft tissues compared to the CT scan.

How Images Are Produced

An MRI uses a powerful magnet along with pulsing radio waves to produce an image. The MRI reads the energy produced by the water molecules in the body as they align themselves with the radio waves. The information is then rendered into two-dimensional images. Because bones do not contain moisture, the bones show up as a black area on the images. This type of scan is perfect for detailed imaging of soft tissues throughout the body.

A CT scan uses x-rays to produce images of the body. These images include bones, soft tissues, and muscles. The x-ray tube is located on one side of the scanner and an x-ray detector is located on the other side of the scanner. As the radiation beam passes through the patient, the detector generates a detailed image of the soft tissues, organs, and bones in the body.

There are numerous advantages to each type of advanced diagnostic tool. A physician will choose the type of diagnostic tool to be used based on the information he needs to collect and the detail of the information he will receive. Doctors will also take the patient’s health into account when determining the type of diagnostic testing to be used.

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