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The Difference Between a MRI Scan and a CT Scan

The Difference Between a MRI Scan and a CT ScanNew medical technology has allowed physicians to help their patients more than ever. Thanks to these advancements, the Gonzaba Medical Group could bring together a complete radiology center under one roof. Patients can visit one location and receive a wide range of radiology services.

MRI scans and CT scans are often mixed up. Both are important, but they serve different purposes. The MRI and CT services at Gonzaba are accredited by the American College of Radiology. Many patients don’t understand the difference between the two, so we are going to clear it all up for you.


 MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI scans are noninvasive and painless. MRI is the use of magnetic fields and radio waves to give a detailed cross-sectional image of a patient’s organs and other structures so doctors can give an accurate interpretation. A large external field, RF pulse, and 3 different gradient fields help produce the image onto the screen.

The patient will lie on a bed and slide into the center of a large tube for the scan. The doctor can talk to the patient through an intercom to ensure they are okay. When the scan begins, the patient must lie as still as possible. If a patient begins to feel uncomfortable or senses something is wrong, he can speak to the intercom and the doctor can stop the scan.

MRI scans can be used to show a number of underlying problems: brain and spinal cord abnormalities, tumors, cysts, joint injuries or abnormalities, certain heart problems, liver diseases and other abdominal organs, the cause of pelvic pain in women (e.g. fibroids, endometriosis), and uterine abnormalities.


 CT (Computerized Tomography)

CT (also known as a CAT scan) uses x-ray technology to create pictures from different areas around the body and translates them into cross sections of the patient’s tissues and organs. CT scans provide more detailed images than an x-ray. However, CT scans give off radiation. It is not recommended for children or pregnant women.

Patients will usually feel more comfortable in a CT scan because they are not enclosed in a large tube. It might look an MRI, but it is a much smaller round tube. The patient’s entire body does not have to be under the scanner. The CT scanner rotates on an axis to take multiple 2D images of a person’s body from various angles.



Best Purpose

An MRI is best used to examine soft tissue in ligament and tendon injuries, spinal cord injuries, brain tumors, etc., while a CT is mostly used to view bone injuries, diagnose lung and chest problems, and detect cancers. One of the biggest differences is that MRI doesn’t use any radiation.

CT scans can be used for many purposes, but are mostly for internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. It is also used many times in the emergency room. A doctor will normally order a CT scan to see the shape, size, and position of structures that are deep within your body. A CT scan can take a diagnostic image that captures soft tissues, bones, and blood vessels all at once.

MRIs are normally ordered by doctors to check for tumors or brain abnormalities. Doctors will often order MRIs to scan the brain, spine, neck, breast, abdomen, and muscles. An MRI is better at diagnosing larger issues.


MRI scans take a lot longer than CT scans. A CT is usually completed within 5 minutes to take an image, while an MRI scan can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours in some cases.


CT scans are slightly less expensive than an MRI scan and can sometimes be half the expense. The cost of a CT Scan ranges from $1,200 to $3,200, and the cost of an MRI is anywhere between $1,200 to $4,000.


Patients with metal implants can get a CT scan, but they can’t get an MRI since it uses magnetic fields. Even those with tattoos aren’t advised to get an MRI because it could make the tattoo distorted. If you are heavily overweight, you might not be able to receive either of the scans. MRI tables can’t hold anyone over 350 pounds, and someone who is 450 pounds will not be able to fit into the opening of the CT scanner.


Visit Gonzaba Urgent Care for Radiology Services

Gonzaba Urgent Care Center is fully accredited by the American College of Radiology to provide superior quality Radiology care, the same technology that is available in hospitals! We have a Board-Certified Radiologist provide patients with quick, valuable information regarding medical diagnosis and treatment. We have three urgent care locations throughout San Antonio. Call (210) 921-6600 if you have questions about our radiology services.

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