The Difference Between MRI and CT Scans

When you need to get a more detailed picture of what’s going on within your nervous system, such as spinal issues, you may have to take either an MRI or a CT scan. If you’re unfamiliar with the procedures, it may be difficult to choose which option will be best for you. Although the machines that do these scans look similar, and work to accomplish similar goals – diagnostic imaging for your internal systems without surgery – the methods they use are very different.

CT Scans

CT Scans are also known as CAT scans, short for computerized axial tomography. They produce images by using X-ray tech. The X-Rays allow the machine to see through the inside of your body, and the scanner itself rotates on an axis around your body. Even though the scanner takes two dimensional images of your body, by the end of the process, it combines these images together to make a three dimensional picture. Doctors then examine these CT Scan images to find possible diseases and illnesses.

CT Scans are more commonly used in emergency rooms, as they are generally faster and take around 5 minutes. Because CT Scans use X-Ray Tech, they involve exposing your body to some radiation, but recent advances in technology have made it so patients would be facing less radiation. While the amount of exposure is usually minimal, it is still advisable to talk to a doctor about the risks first before moving forward. CT Scans can be used to detect tissue density for your organs, as well as present detailed information about your skeletal system, primarily your spine.

MRI Scans

MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. What that means is, instead of X-rays, an MRI Scanner will use powerful magnets and radio waves to draw up a diagnostic image. An MRI Scan takes much longer than a CT scan due to its thoroughness. Some MRI scans take around a half hour. They can also be more expensive than CT Scans.

However, MRI scans are more clear than CT Scans, and will give a better idea of whether an internal injury or disease is present. They are also more suited for use related to spinal cord injuries, and present no biological hazards.

Which Should You Choose?

In general, choosing between an MRI or a CT Scan will depend on your situation. However, if you are looking to accurately find the root of spinal pains and misalignments, it is best to get the most detailed information possible for an accurate diagnosis with an MRI Scan. For an MRI Review, contact the Spine Institute at 973-538-4444 and schedule an appointment at one of our New Jersey locations.