Inside Look: MRIs, CT Scans, and X-Rays


Diagnostic imaging, like MRIs, CT Scans, and X-Rays, allow doctors to see what’s going on inside of us, but have you  ever wondered what the difference is between an X-ray, a CT scan, and an MRI? What determines which one the doctor will use? Like anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to each imaging type, and you want to make sure you find a radiology and imaging center that will provide proper screening and explanation of the procedure to ensure your comfortability and safety.

Here are some helpful hints on how each radiology test works and which may be the best one for you and your medical needs:

What are MRIs, CT Scans, and X-Rays for Exactly?

What an X-Ray is Used For

X-rays are the oldest form of medical imaging. They are a type of electromagnetic radiation that sends individual X-ray particles through the body. When the particles pass through the body, dense objects such as bone block radiation appear white on the X-ray film. X-rays are typically used to capture fractures, dislocations, infections, tumors, bone degeneration, or bone disease on film. X-rays are the most inexpensive of the three diagnostic procedures, but won’t provide as much detail as a CT scan or MRI. If your doctor needs more detailed images, they may order a CT scan or MRI, depending on the area of the body being examined.

What a CT Scan is Used For

Using a combination of X-rays and computer technology, a Computer Tomography (CT) scan is used to produce a cross-sectional image to assess the different structures within your body, such as tissues and organs. A CT scan is used to examine blood vessels, soft tissues, and organs to pinpoint infections, masses, clots, and tumors. It’s the best tool for viewing bone injuries, diagnosing lung and chest problems, and detecting cancers.

What MRI Scans Are Used For

MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging- is the best tool for examining soft tissues in ligament and tendon injuries, spinal cord injuries, and brain tumors. It captures high-resolution images of these type of abnormalities. Like a CT scan, it produces detailed cross-sectional images of your body, except that it uses magnetic fields as opposed to radiation. Your doctor may order an MRI scan if he or she gets inconclusive results through other imaging scans.

What are the Major Differences Between CT Scan and MRI

One major difference between a CT scan and an MRI is the potential impact on the body. CT scans use radiation, so they may pose greater, although still minor, risks, while MRIs have no biological risks except that some patients may be claustrophobic, allergic to contrast dye, or have liver or kidney disorders that would prevent them from using the dye.

Another difference is that while MRIs shouldn’t be performed on patients with metal implants in their body (due to the magnetic fields), CT scans shouldn’t be performed on pregnant patients due to the radiation. MRIs are also very noisy and require you to be enclosed lying on a hard bed for an extended period of time.

The last major difference is cost. CT scans are significantly less expensive than MRIs, with CT scans ranging anywhere from $400 to $3000, while MRIs can cost up to $4000.

If you have any questions about an order for a diagnostic procedure or pricing, contact Hospitality Health ER to speak to our radiology and imaging center.