You've probably heard the terms MRI and CT scan frequently bandied about the health care industry. But if you've never had to experience either of these high tech imaging methods, you may be unfamiliar with their processes and what they can do. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and is typically a cylindrical scanning chamber. The scanner uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the structures, organs, and tissues inside your body. The data from the scanner is fed to a computer where a doctor can analyze the results.
A CT scan, or computerized tomography, is a form of x-ray. A CT scanner is also typically a cylindrical device, though often smaller than an MRI imager. It uses a narrow beam of x-rays to take cross-sectional images of a patient's body. Those images are then fed to a computer. MRIs and CT scans use very different technology to accomplish many of the same goals. However, there are a couple things that MRI imaging can accomplish that CT scans can't do as well.
Looking at Soft Tissue
One of the benefits of an MRI over a CT scan is that an MRI can create a detailed image of the soft tissues in your body. An MRI sends pulses of radio waves through the human body. Those waves actually knock the nuclei of the atoms in the human body out of position and force them to realign. As they move back into position, the nuclei send radio signals that are received by the scanner and interpreted by the computer, turning it into an image of many parts of the body that x-ray technology can't see as well, specifically soft tissue and joints. That's why MRI is often preferred in fields such as orthopedics, where joints and soft tissues are often the areas that need to be examined.
Uses Zero Radiation
A CT scan uses pulses of ionizing radiation to create the images the doctor needs to diagnose health problems. It's the same basic technology that your dentist uses to take an x-ray of your teeth or your doctor uses to diagnose a fracture. But in both of those scenarios, your dentist or doctor uses a lead-lined bib to protect the parts of your body that will be exposed to ionizing radiation that aren't the desired subject of the image. That's because using ionizing radiation involves some risk, and a CT scan uses higher levels of radiation than a radiograph in order to get its detailed images. An MRI scan, on the other hand, uses only magnetization and radio waves, no ionized radiation at all.
If you need CT or MRI imaging, contact your doctor to discuss which of these options is best for your condition.