Which is better? MRI or CT scans?

Which is better? MRI or CT scans?

CT scan refers to that diagnostic technique akin to a series of X-rays taken at a breakneck speed in a circle around the patient. The X-rays are then combined and looked at, which offers a detailed 3-dimensional image of the...


In medical diagnosis, laymen often confuse different modalities. One such confusion is the difference between a CT scan and MRI

CT scan refers to that diagnostic technique akin to a series of X-rays taken at a breakneck speed in a circle around the patient. The X-rays are then combined and looked at, which offers a detailed 3-dimensional image of the patient’s body. 

On the other hand, MRIs are based on the principle of a powerful magnet and radio waves that create a similar picture. The radio waves within the scanner can activate molecules in the human body and they get lined up in a particular way. They emit signals when they go back to their original positions. This gives doctors valuable information about the different types of tissue in the body.

In both scans, patients have to lie down on a movable table that slides into a big, cylindrical machine.

So, which is better, a CT scan or MRI?

It is a perennial question people may have when faced with a situation of undergoing a diagnosis. Although it is the discretion of the healthcare professional who knows better and suggests accordingly, people do deliberate on this topic. To make it clear at the outset, it is like comparing apples with oranges. 

They are both equally important as diagnostic tools. The best part is, they both play complementary roles when providing valuable information in treatment interventions. Healthcare professionals can extract requisite information from both, a CT scan and an MRI in providing treatment to patients.

While a CT scan may be crucial in providing spatial resolution, MRIs can provide amazing results when it comes to contrast resolution. In short, doctors can find out the edges of things, where a particular structure ends and where another begins. On the other hand, MRIs are excellent in providing us with information about the differences that exist between numerous parts of the body, e.g. differentiating cancer tissue from normal tissue.

CT scan vs MRI: How to choose between the two?

Choosing between a CT scan and an MRI entirely depends on the type of ailment of the patient. The onus lies or discretion with the physician attending to the disease of the patient. The healthcare professional is the best judge in such a scenario. Everyone is an individual case, and the doctor decides between the two diagnostic marvels. 

If the physician is looking to examine a bony structure, then it is a CT scan that will return the best results. It can be a perfect technique in such a scenario. However, when the doctor is trying to find out and distinguish between normal tissue and cancerous tissue, he or she will go for an MRI, because it is the method for that. For a patient with a lot of ascites, or fluid-filled pockets, chances are that it might jeopardize an MRI throwing challenges to obtain a better and clear image.

So, it is often based on procuring the best picture related to the condition of the patient. 

Some advantages and disadvantages of these two diagnostic modalities

The advantage of a CT scan over an MRI is that it is faster than an MRI. It can be lightning-quick compared to an MRI. The process takes far less time than the preparation. The whole process gets over in less than a minute. So, it is best for people who have issues remaining still for a longer period. In that case, a CT scan can be the best option to derive essential information. 

While there is better clarity on things, an MRI also takes much longer time than a CT scan. The time to complete an MRI scan is between 30 minutes to an hour. Many patients have difficulty remaining still for such a long time. If a person tends to move during an MRI scan the images returned will be distorted and may not be very helpful for the doctors. Moreover, many have claustrophobia and dread confinement in limited and cramped spaces. 

Things are more clearly visible in an MRI, but the process may require sufficient time, say between 30 minutes to an hour to obtain them. It is based on how much of your body is being scanned. Any movement during the MRI scan will distort the images.

However, when doctors are unsure about the results of a CT scan, they may advise an MRI. It helps them in getting images that have precision and crystal clarity. In that way, an MRI may prove superior to a CT scan as a problem-solving diagnostic modality. 

Things to discuss with your doctor before an MRI or a CT scan

One should be aware that an MRI scan is based on the principles of the usage of a very powerful magnet. If a patient has any metal implants in the body and devices like a pacemaker or any prosthetics, it should be discussed beforehand with the physician. One should divulge to the doctor any foreign body embedded in the tissue before undergoing an MRI. If you have bullet fragments, metal flakes, or shrapnel in the body, talk to your physician about it. If there is any ferromagnetic substance in the body it may get dislodged and move around in the body if an MRI is done. 

Should patients be wary about radiation during the scans?

It is natural and quotidian that some patients are paranoid about getting exposed to ionizing radiation, used during X-rays, CT scans, and mammograms. The healthcare professionals and the facility ensure that the amount of radiation is used to its minimum to get the best image. However, they still refrain from going for a scan if there are any chances of radiation that far outweigh the benefits. So, this is a matter that should be discussed in advance with the doctors and other staff members before undergoing the scan. 

MRI CT scan price

For many people who are scheduled to go for a CT scan or an MRI fret about its cost. Since both are sophisticated techniques of diagnosis, they come with a price.

So, if you are thinking about MRI CT scan price, you should know certain criteria that govern the price of these diagnostic tools. The MRI CT scan price is dependent on the location where the facility is situated. It also depends on the extra screenings required for a specific case. The use of contrast agents during certain cases of MRI also influences the final price. The coverage provided by your insurance plan is another factor that may have a say on the MRI CT scan price.

Hence, the best option is to talk directly to your physician or healthcare facility to get a clear idea before the scan. Discuss with your insurance provider also about any special coverage it may have. Remember that some healthcare facilities discounts for patients who pay out-of-pocket. This will so help in slashing

the final MRI CT scan price.


We now know that both CT scans and MRIs can be invaluable tools in medical diagnostics. Yet they have their share of strengths and weaknesses and are different from each other. CT scans are excellent for getting detailed images of bones and finding out more about acute injuries. In this way, CT scans are ideal for emergencies. 

On the other hand, MRI scans are perfect when it comes to soft tissue resolution. MRI can help in analyzing intricate anatomical structures and pinpointing chronic ailments.  

So, healthcare professionals, equipped with this knowledge of the differences between the two, can make informed decisions on picking the right modality for a particular diagnosis. This results in better diagnoses and better patient outcomes. Capitalizing on the strength of these modalities, healthcare professionals achieve a precise view of the patient’s anatomy to provide optimal treatment intervention. 


Why is an MRI done after a CT scan?

It is when the doctor suspects any abnormalities which call for further scanning; an MRI is advised after a CT scan. It is suggested to investigate more areas in the anatomy. Some areas of the body are better revealed in an MRI compared to a CT scan. So, MRI can be considered superior in generating clearer images than a CT scan. 

What is the fundamental difference between a CT scan and an MRI?

In CT scans there is the use of X-rays, while MRI makes use of magnetic fields to get clear pictures of the human body. A CT can be done within a minute while an MRI is completed in between 30 minutes to an hour.