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CT Scan vs MRI: Key Differences Explained

Dr. Nieto
Medically reviewed by Robert Nieto
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Dr. Nieto
Medically reviewed by Robert Nieto

CT Scan vs MR

Modern medicine, especially diagnostic methods, does not stand still. New technologies are constantly emerging to provide more accurate diagnoses. The most popular ones include CT and MRI. They are similar to each other but have several distinctions. These are excellent, highly accurate instrumental diagnostic methods. They are more informative and precise than the others. CT scans vs. MRIs were first used in medicine over 50 years ago. During this time, technology has been significantly modernized.

Patients have become more comfortable undergoing these examinations. In addition, their accuracy has improved. This enables an accurate diagnosis immediately after receiving the results. And the sooner treatment begins, the higher the chances of recovery. Understanding the difference between these methods is essential to decide where to go for examination. To make the right decision, it is also crucial to understand the operating principle of computed tomography. Let’s look at all the nuances in detail. 

What is a CT Scan?

CT Scan

Understanding the differences between MR and CT scans is also essential for doctors. The first method is short for a computed tomography scan. It is a diagnostic imaging procedure that utilizes X-rays to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the body. During a CT scan, the patient lies on a motorized table. It moves through a doughnut-shaped machine called a CT scanner. The scanner emits X-ray beams from many angles, detected by detectors on the opposite side of the machine. A computer processes the collected data to create detailed cross-sectional images. It is also known as slices of the body’s internal structures. These images provide clear views of bones, tissues, organs, and blood vessels. They allow healthcare professionals to diagnose and evaluate various medical conditions. 

What is an MRI?


An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a sophisticated medical imaging technique. It usually visualizes the body’s internal structures in exceptional detail. Unlike CT scans, which use X-rays, MRIs utilize a powerful magnetic field and radio waves. They help to generate images. This imaging modality is particularly adept at producing highly detailed images of soft tissues, organs, and the brain. During an MRI scan, the patient lies inside a large, tube-like machine, surrounded by a strong magnetic field. Radio waves are then directed at the body, causing the body’s atoms to emit signals. A computer generally captures and processes them to create detailed cross-sectional images.

MRIs are invaluable for diagnosing a wide range of conditions. They include brain tumors, spinal cord injuries, joint injuries, and soft tissue injuries. Such conditions provide excellent contrast between different types of soft tissues. This makes them especially useful for detecting abnormalities. Among them are tumors, inflammation, or structural damage. The non-invasive nature of MRIs makes them an indispensable tool in modern medicine for CT scans vs. MRIs.

Difference Between MRI and CT Scan

Difference MRI and CT Scan

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computed Tomography) scans are standard imaging techniques. They are always used to diagnose various health conditions. Both provide detailed images of the inside of the body. They utilize different technologies and are suitable for other purposes. Let’s check out the differences between MRI and CT scans


Regarding technology, there are distinct differences between CT scans and MRIs. Among them are:

  • CT Scans: Utilize X-ray technology to create cross-sectional images of the body. X-rays pass through the body. Sensors generally detect them, generating detailed images of bones, organs, and tissues.
  • MRIs: Employ a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the body’s internal structures. These magnetic fields cause hydrogen atoms in the body to align, emitting radio waves. A computer then captures and processes them to create detailed images of soft tissues, organs, and the brain.

Understanding the technological disparities between CT scans vs. MRIs is crucial for doctors. It helps them to select the most appropriate imaging modality for specific patient needs.

Image Detail

Several factors are vital to consider when comparing the image detail provided by CT and MRIs. Among them are:

Aspect CT Scans MRIs
Soft Tissues Limited resolution for soft tissues. Exceptional detail of soft tissues.
Bones Good visualization of bone structures. Less detailed images of bone structures.
Contrast Lower contrast between different soft tissues. High contrast between different soft tissues.
Brain Imaging Less detailed pictures of the brain. Superior visualization of brain structures.
Spinal Cord Limited visualization of the spinal cord. Clear depiction of spinal cord anatomy.
Joints Limited detail in joint imaging. Excellent detail in joint imaging.

CT scans are effective for visualizing bone structures and detecting abnormalities in bones. MRIs provide exceptional detail of soft tissues, organs, and the brain. Understanding these differences is crucial for selecting the most appropriate imaging modality. It is generally based on the patient’s specific condition and diagnostic needs.


When considering the safety aspects of CT vs. MRIs, several factors are pivotal. Among them are:

  • Radiation Exposure: CT scans use ionizing radiation, which can increase the risk of cancer with repeated exposure. MRIs, in contrast, do not use ionizing radiation. It makes them safer for patients. It is mainly for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children.
  • Contrast Agents: CT scans and MRIs may require contrast agents to enhance image quality. These agents are generally safe. They can occasionally cause allergic reactions or kidney problems. They are mainly in patients with pre-existing conditions.
  • Metallic Implants: MRIs may pose risks for patients with metallic implants or devices. Among them is the strong magnetic field that can interact with these objects and cause discomfort or injury. CT scans do not pose the same risks for patients with metallic implants.
  • Patient Comfort: MRIs may be challenging for claustrophobic patients due to the confined space of the machine. On the other hand, CT scans are generally more comfortable and less intimidating.

Understanding these safety considerations between CT scans vs. MRIs is crucial for doctors. It helps them choose the appropriate imaging modality for each patient’s needs.


The choice between these imaging tests depends on the specific medical situation and the type of information needed. Here are some critical applications where they are commonly used:

  • Trauma and Emergency Medicine: CT scans are often the preferred imaging modality in such situations. They provide quick and detailed images of injuries. Among them are fractures, internal bleeding, and traumatic brain injuries. MRIs may be usually used in less urgent cases to assess soft tissue injuries or spinal cord damage.
  • Neuroimaging: MRIs are particularly valuable for imaging the brain and spinal cord. They offer detailed views of structures such as the brainstem, cerebellum, and white matter tracts. They are essential for diagnosing conditions. Among them are strokes, tumors, multiple sclerosis, and neurological disorders.
  • Oncology: CT scans and MRIs play critical roles in oncology for detecting and staging tumors. CT scans excel at visualizing solid tumors and assessing tumor size and location. MRIs provide excellent soft tissue contrast. It makes them ideal for evaluating tumor extent and assessing treatment response.

Understanding the specific applications and strengths of CT vs. MRIs is vital. So doctors can decide which imaging modality is most appropriate for each patient’s condition.


Both imaging tests are valuable medical imaging tools. They have distinctions in technology, image detail, safety, and applications. Understanding the differences is crucial for healthcare professionals. It helps them to select the most appropriate imaging modality. At Lone Star Neurology, we leverage the strengths of CT scans vs. MRIs. We provide comprehensive care and exact diagnoses for our patients’ neurological disorders.


What’s the difference between MRI and СТ scan?

The main difference is that MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves. It helps to create detailed images of soft tissues. CT scans use X-rays to produce cross-sectional images of the body’s structures.

Are CT scans or MRIs more harmful to your health?

CT scans expose patients to ionizing radiation, making them harmful with repeated exposure. MRIs do not use ionizing radiation, making them safer for patients, especially for pregnant women and children.

How long do CT and MRI scans take?

CT scans typically take a few minutes to complete. MRI scans may take longer, usually 15 to 60 minutes, depending on the scanning area and the specific imaging protocol.

Can everyone undergo MRI and CT scans?

Not everyone can undergo MRI and CT scans. There are certain medical conditions, such as pacemakers, metallic implants, or severe claustrophobia. They may contraindicate the procedure.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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