MRI vs CT Scan

MRI vs CT Scan

imagesMany patients may wonder what the difference is between a CT Scan and an MRI. In both imaging machines, the patient lies on a table and goes into a tube or doughnut shaped piece of diagnostic equipment after their physician has ordered the test. The image technique used will depend on what your health issues are.


Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses strong magnet and radio waves to produce clear and detailed diagnostic images of internal body organs and tissues. MRI is a valuable tool for the diagnosis of a broad range of conditions. The data collected from the MRI is reconstructed into a two dimensional illustration through any axis of the body. Bone is virtually void of water and therefore does not generate any image data. This leaves a black area in the images. MRI scanners are best suited for imaging soft tissue. Advantages in using an MRI include:

  • MRI uses a magnetic field to produce images and has no known side effects related to radiation exposure.
  • MRI has much higher detail for soft tissue structures.
  • MRI offers the ability to adjust the sharpness of the black, white and gray of the images by making small changes in the radio waves and the magnetic fields. Different settings will highlight different types of tissue.
  • MRI provides the ability to change the imaging plane without moving the patient.
  • Contrast agents are used in both MRI and CT, however MRI contrast does not contain iodine.

The CT Scan

CT (computed tomography), also called a CAT scan, uses x-ray and computer equipment to produce cross-sectional images of body tissues and organs. CT imaging is useful because it can show several types of tissue, such as lung, bone, soft tissue and blood vessels. CT uses ionizing radiation to image the body. The advantages of a CT scan include:

  • CT exceeds in imaging bone structures including bone density for osteoporosis.
  • Some patients who have received certain types of surgical clips, metallic fragments, cardiac monitors or pacemakers cannot receive an MRI but can have a CT scan.
  • The time taken for total testing is shorter in CT than for MRI.
  • CT can be more comfortable for patients who are claustrophobic.
  • CT is far superior at visualizing the lungs and organs in the chest cavity between the lungs.

Your doctor will determine which test is appropriate for achieving an accurate diagnosis for your condition. At PRA, our team of accomplished physicians have a wide range of sub-specialty, fellowship trained expertise, which allows them to provide our patients with outstanding care.

Peninsula Radiology Associates is committed to creating and maintaining the highest standards, which continue to surpass the expectations of our patients and our referring doctors. You can be assured you are receiving the most advanced and accurate imaging in Hampton Roads.

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