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What is the difference between MRI and CT scan?

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Posted on Sat, 24 Dec 2016
Question: what's the difference between MRI and CT scan?
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Answered by Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh (51 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
CT vs MRI

Detailed Answer:
Hello -

A CT scan (also called "CAT Scan") is a picture taken by a special type of X-ray machine. CT stands for computerized tomography. Unlike a regular X-ray, a CT scan can show different narrow planes of tissue inside the body. It produces pictures at varying depths while a regular (plain film) Xray cannot do this.

CT scans nowadays are usually quite fast. They do cause some X-ray exposure although that has gotten less as advances have been made in taking faster pictures with lower dose radiation.

MRI scans (MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging) use powerful magnetic fields and radio frequency pulses to produce images. The pictures they take are at different depths like with a CT. Differences between normal and abnormal tissue are sometimes clearer on an MRI image than a CT.

While there is no radiation involved in an MRI scan, it can be very noisy and take longer than a CT. Some people feel claustrophobic in an MRI scanner because of the proximity of the tube they are in to their face, and the noise. Ear plugs with head phones, which the tech will provide, can help with the noise problem. For the claustrophobic feeling, it can help to know that the techs can hear you, and they usually provide something to squeeze or press to alert them that you want to talk. Sometimes people are given sedation so that they don't mind the exam.

There is sometimes a difference in price or what your insurance company will pay - usually CT scans are less expensive.

I hope this information answers your question. Please let me know if I can provide further info or clarification.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Answered by
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Dr. Bonnie Berger-Durnbaugh

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1991

Answered : 3138 Questions

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What is the difference between MRI and CT scan?

Brief Answer: CT vs MRI Detailed Answer: Hello - A CT scan (also called "CAT Scan") is a picture taken by a special type of X-ray machine. CT stands for computerized tomography. Unlike a regular X-ray, a CT scan can show different narrow planes of tissue inside the body. It produces pictures at varying depths while a regular (plain film) Xray cannot do this. CT scans nowadays are usually quite fast. They do cause some X-ray exposure although that has gotten less as advances have been made in taking faster pictures with lower dose radiation. MRI scans (MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging) use powerful magnetic fields and radio frequency pulses to produce images. The pictures they take are at different depths like with a CT. Differences between normal and abnormal tissue are sometimes clearer on an MRI image than a CT. While there is no radiation involved in an MRI scan, it can be very noisy and take longer than a CT. Some people feel claustrophobic in an MRI scanner because of the proximity of the tube they are in to their face, and the noise. Ear plugs with head phones, which the tech will provide, can help with the noise problem. For the claustrophobic feeling, it can help to know that the techs can hear you, and they usually provide something to squeeze or press to alert them that you want to talk. Sometimes people are given sedation so that they don't mind the exam. There is sometimes a difference in price or what your insurance company will pay - usually CT scans are less expensive. I hope this information answers your question. Please let me know if I can provide further info or clarification.