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Is a CAT scan similar to an MRI?


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Sean’s Answer

MRI, CT or CAT scans, and Xray are imaging techniques that can be used under many different circumstances to get more information about a patient. In all cases, contrast can be given to a patient to help get even more information out of the study. However, the technologies between MRI and CT/Xray are very different.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) does not use potentially harmful ionizing radiation, instead it uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to generate images of the organs of the body. This makes MRIs particularly good for studying soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and organs. Generally, this imaging modality is the most expensive and can require a person to be inside the MRI scanner for an extended period of time in order to acquire all of the images.

Xray and CT scans use ionizing radiation to generate images based on the density of the tissues that the beams pass through. This makes Xray and CT particularly well suited to study tissues with much different densities than those tissues around them (bone, lungs, organs). This is a very fast process taking only seconds to generate large quantities of information. Xrays are 2-D images, while CT scans are 3-D images. Ionizing radiation comes from natural and man-made sources, but as doses increase, so does the risk of long term health effects such as cancer.

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Estelle’s Answer

Yes, CAT scans and MRI's are similar imaging techniques in that they try to recreate images of body organs in 3 dimensions. They each have their specific benefits. For example, MRI's are better for joints and ligaments. A CT scan would be better for quick evaluation of abdominal pain. The CT is much less expensive a faster.

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Marini’s Answer

CT scans are similar to MRIs. The biggest difference is that CT scans use X-rays and MRIs use radio waves. CT scans are performed more as they are faster and less expensive than MRIs. But, MRIs are more detailed. Doctors determine which will be used based on symptoms and/or what is being imaged.

Side note: MRI machines are loud, which earplugs are provided to the patient.

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Marini’s Answer

CT scans are similar to MRIs. The biggest difference is that CT scans use X-rays and MRIs use radio waves. CT scans are performed more as they are faster and less expensive than MRIs. But, MRIs are more detailed. Doctors determine which will be used based on symptoms and/or what is being imaged.

Side note: MRI machines are loud, which earplugs are provided to the patient.

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Richard’s Answer

They are both types of advanced imaging techniques. MRI is usually more expensive and time consuming. It offers superior detail in evaluation of brain, spine, and joints. It can be a problem solver in the abdomen and pelvis if the CT scan raises specific questions.

CT scan is faster but it uses ionizing radiation and often requires iodinated contrast material which can be hard on peoples' kidneys. It is useful in the chest, abdomen, pelvis and vascular system. Due to the superior speed, CT is the imaging method of choice in the scenario of trauma.

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