MRI Vs. CT Scans: Which One Is Better?

MRI Vs. CT Scans: Which One Is Better?

Mar 01, 2020

If you have ever visited 24-hour emergency care near you, chances are the doctor ordered an MRI or a CT Scan. Both of these imaging tools provide diagnostic images of your body organs, but they accomplish their functions differently. In this post, our ER team highlights some of their key differences.

1. Mode of Delivery

Yes, both the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computed Tomography) Scans are used to capture internal body images, but they are designed differently. The primary difference between the two is how they carry out their functions. MRIs use radio waves and magnets while the CT Scan uses x-rays.

An MRI machine has a strong magnetic force and radio waves that capture detailed images of the organs. The scanner resembles a large tube and has a table that the patient lies on. When testing, the magnetic force bounces the water and fat molecules in the body, and the radio waves are transmitted and translated into high-quality images. The MRI machine is loud, but the doctor will be given earplugs to reduce the impact of the sounds.

CT Scan, on the other hand, is a large x-ray machine that uses a narrow beam to provide a series of images of the selected organ from different angles.

2. Function

When you visit a hospital near you with a soft tissue injury, the doctor may recommend an MRI imaging. MRI machines can diagnose a disease or an injury and monitor how you are responding to treatment.

Our doctor performs an MRI on any part of the body and each test checks for something different. For instance, an MRI of the brain or spinal cord will check for brain injury, damaged vessels, or spinal cord injuries, while an MRI of the heart will check for blocked blood vessels.

CT or CAT Scan checks the internal body organs using an x-ray beam. When you visit our urgent care in Waxahachie with bone fractures, internal bleeding, or tumors, the doctor will use a CT Scan to make a diagnosis.

Our doctor will give instructions to follow, depending on the type of imaging that will be done. For both MRI and CT Scan, you aren’t supposed to wear any metals and therefore inform the doctor of any metals such as artificial heart valves before the procedure.

The doctor may also order you not to eat a few hours before a CT scan is done.

3. Radiation Risk

Since the CT Scan uses x-ray beams, chances are you will be exposed to small doses of ionizing radiation, which are higher than the normal x-ray imaging done.

Although the machine produces radiation beams, the doses are too low to cause any harm to your body. Nonetheless, the CT Scan is not recommended for all people like pregnant women as it can cause harm to the fetus.

MRI scans use magnetic waves and therefore doesn’t have any radiation effects. However, Magnetic Resonance Imaging does have risks such as reaction to metals and claustrophobia. Also, loud noises may cause hearing loss in some patients.

4. Time

CT Scan takes the win on this one as they produce quality images in a relatively short time. An actual CT Scan imaging lasts for a few minutes while an MRI test lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. But, despite the length, MRI produces higher quality images.


MRI and CT scans have their benefits and risks, and both are effective, so the doctor will recommend the ideal one based on your symptoms. For instance, if detailed images of your organs, soft tissues, and ligaments are needed, an MRI test is the best option. But, if you walk into a clinic near you with head trauma or injury, then CT Scan is ideal.

At Altus Emergency Center in Waxahachie, we offer a 24-hour emergency room with fully equipped MRI and CT Scan machines to diagnose any abnormality in your internal body in case of an emergency. Contact us to learn more about MRI and CT Scans and the risks involved in each.

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