To probe into the intricacies, we’ve to begin with the basic difference in the description between an MRI scan and a CT scan. Though both are usually taken to diagnose cancer, or bone injuries and fractures, A CT (computerized tomography) scan is a form of X-raying that utilizes a combination of X-ray images that are taken from different angles, and then utilizing the help of a computer to create images, whereas an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan uses the combination of radio waves and magnetic fields and produces an intricately detailed image of your body’s bones and other soft tissues.
Your doctor would usually recommend either an MRI scan or a CT scan based on the symptoms your body exhibits. A more detailed image of soft tissues, like in cases of herniated disks, soft tissue problems, or torn ligaments, may warrant you to go for an MRI scan. A more general image of your internal structure or a fracture or a head injury usually warrants a CT scan. If you’ve been recommended to go for an MRI scan, and you have artificial joints, a pacemaker in your heart, eye implants of any sort or intrauterine devices (IUDs), you should consult your doctor and decide the course of your scan with him. Both MRI and CT scans involve the injection of a particular contrast eye, mostly before the scan process is commenced so that the radiologist scanning you can see your organs in clarity. The injection of this dye is usually risk-free and possesses no great threats to your health or your well-being.
Unless it is a tumor, everybody is recommended a CT scan. If your doctor needs better clarity and more evaluation, they can ask you to go for an MRI scan. The usual principle that guides which test one would be recommended depends upon the condition as well as the conveniences of the patient. CT scans are in popular usage more than an MRI scan, and one of the reasons include their affordability over MRI scans. MRIs, however, are preferred for their detailing and are considered superior. A detailed look at each of their advantages, disadvantages/risks could help you in understanding what you should prefer.
Advantages of CT Scan:
- They are faster: Since it is an X-raying form, and can adequately help you view your internal body structures, the results come up sooner than a typical MRI scan, and hence in case of emergencies, they are preferred more. You get results in a matter of minutes, literally!
- Useful for diagnosing cancer: Usually, CT scans for their capability to get an image of your whole body are preferred for diagnosing if your cancer has returned, to monitor if a particular treatment is effective, or it has spread to other body parts.
- Detail oriented: It is very useful for capturing details of your internal structures, and is more precise and preferred than an ultrasonography.
- Painless: Other than being pretty affordable, and scans that provide quick results, they are also painless and have minimum risks.
Disadvantages of CT scan:
- A CT scan requires the patient undergoing the scan to hold their breath, which might not be very convenient or feasible for all patients.
- It delivers a high dose of radiation, and that is a big price to pay, for the amount you’re saving if you’re not opting for an MRI scan. There are numerous factors involved in how much dose of radiation your body undergoes, considering the size of the patient, the size of the scanner, techniques put to use, x-ray beam quality, protocols of scanning and anatomic volume scanned. This high exposure to radiation also makes your body, in some cases, prone to cancer. This also puts children at high risk and though the risk from one CT scan is very minimal, risks remain.
Advantages of a MRI scan:
- Extremely clear images: MRI scans give the clearest of images of your internal structures that other imaging technologies often fail to provide, in spite of the fast results they come with.
- Emits no radiation: Unlike a CT scan, MRI scans emit no radiation and are also entirely non-invasive, in nature.
- Mostly non-allergic: It is non-allergic to most patients undergoing an MRI scan, unlike CT scans where the risks for allergies for their use of iodine based substances are prevalent and frequent in patients.
- Beneficial for imaging large portions of body: MRI scans help by imaging almost entire body or large sections, and do not posit an inconvenience in terms of covering only small sections like mammography and sonography often do.
- Suitable for detecting cancer: Not only are MRI scans utilized for diagnosing cancer, but they are very useful for checking if it has spread to other body parts. They are also essentially crucial in checking whether a particular form of treatment is effective in a patient and help trace changes and improvements.
Disadvantages of MRI scan:
- It is more expensive than a CT scan, and hence not easily affordable.
- They have limitations, and are not adequate or always successful in diagnosing all sorts and types of cancers, like breast cancers are not easily detectable by MRI scans.
- Chances of false-positive results are numerous, as MRI scans are not very useful in differentiating and distinguishing between what might be a simple case of benign disease from a tumor that is malignant.
- Though MRI scans are not painful, it requires patients to be in an enclosed machine, which isn’t very feasible or preferable for patients who suffer from claustrophobia. The patient usually needs to wait for a duration of 20 to 40 minutes within the enclosed space, hence it is not always preferable for children or claustrophobic individuals.
- If a patient has an undetected metal implant, that could be affected by the strong magnets used in MRI units. It is also a very noising procedure, which might cause some hearing problems in individuals. As a precautionary measure, ear protection is provided to patients, undergoing MRI scans.