CT Scan vs. MRI: What's the Difference?

When we’re in the middle of a health scare, we usually simply take our doctor’s orders and see what comes about. Have you ever wondered why they issued those specific orders and tests, though? For example, how do they decide on a CT scan vs MRI or vice versa?

How do CT scans and MRIs work?

Both CT scans and MRIs take internal images of your body. They’re both used to diagnose and monitor a wide variety of health conditions.

However, these two tests work in different waves. CT scans use X-rays at various angles throughout your body to create an internal cross-section view. MRIs, on the other hand, use a combination of magnets and radio waves.

Are CT scans and MRIs interchangeable?

While some conditions can be viewed with either of these tests, your doctor uses MRIs and CT scans differently, and they are not typically interchangeable.

MRIs are usually more expensive but are used by doctors to get more detailed images.

CT scans tend to be more common because for many conditions, they offer enough definition and precision to give your doctor what they need. Doctors don’t want to burden you with the added cost and time of an MRI unless it’s necessary. When they do need more detailed images of certain parts of your body, though, an MRI will typically be the go-to choice.

Which is safer: CT scan or MRI?

It’s important to note that in general, both CT scans and MRIs are very safe procedures. They both have very low risks overall. CT scans are much faster but use some radiation. MRIs are slower but don't have radiation because they use magnets.

Because of their different imaging methods, CT scans and MRIs are each incompatible with certain conditions or circumstances. For instance, the radiation from a CT scan is typically tolerable by adults, but it can be dangerous for a developing fetus if a pregnant mother receives a CT scan.

On the other hand, because MRI’s use magnets, they can cause metal to move. As a result, MRI’s can be dangerous for people who have metal implants like metal screws that were placed to repair a broken bone or pacemakers in their heart. Those implants can be attracted to the magnets of the MRI like any other metal-to-magnet connection, inducing movement and causing damage to nearby tissues.

How do costs differ between MRIs and CT scans?

MRIs often use more complex, expensive technology to produce images. As a result, MRI tests are more expensive than CT scans. However, it’s easy to overpay for either type of imaging if you don’t shop around.

Whether you need a CT scan, MRI, or other imaging procedure, Imaging Panda’s service specializes in exploring the imaging centers near you and finding the most affordable high-quality options.

Getting Your CT Scan or MRI

You could be one CT scan or MRI away from getting the answers you need for your health. No matter how your doctor chose between a CT scan vs MRI, remember that you have the right to choose your own imaging center. Your next step should be to find affordable, high-quality options. You can save money by shopping for your MRIs and CT scans.

You can use Imaging Panda to save money and time on your radiology tests. We’ve simplified the entire appointment booking process. Based on your doctor’s order, we can help you find affordable CT scans and MRIs without sacrificing quality.