What Is the Difference Between an X-ray, CT Scan & MRI?

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What Is the Difference Between an X-ray, CT Scan & MRI?

20 Apr 2018

Diagnostic imaging techniques have been around for a while, but with technology advancing at such high speeds, it is often hard to keep up with the differences, the best technique for you, and what makes you the most comfortable. In this article, we will discuss the three most commonly used imaging techniques and what makes them different from one another. These include X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, giving a better way to understand how to keep ourselves healthy.


X-rays are the most common form of diagnostic imagery; because of this, even if the patient needs a more sophisticated test, they will often receive an x-ray first. They can be used to not only see the bones within your body, but special dyes can also be used to reveal your organs. X-rays utilize radiation to reveal dense objects in the body, such as bones. These bones appear white in the imagery and give doctors an accurate picture of what is happening in your body. The amount of radiation associated with x-rays is not considered dangerous by doctors and nurses alike.

CT Scans

A computed tomography scan, or CT scan, is a great way to make much more detailed and high-quality images of the body. CT scans are taken by means of a machine that looks like a large tunnel with a table that slides in and out. As the patient enters the machine, a rotating camera, if you will, begins capturing images of the body through sets of cross sections. These cross sections, put together, reveal the big picture. CT scans are a powerful x-ray that takes a 360-degree image of internal organs but is much more expensive than the conventional x-ray and is not always available at small or rural hospitals.


CT scans and MRIs are most similar in what they produce and the technique by which the image is taken. The main difference being that instead of radiation, an MRI machine uses radio and magnetic waves to produce an image that is generally used to diagnose bone and joint problems as well as torn ligaments and cartilage and herniated discs.