Skip to main content


All stories

Q: What’s the difference between a CT scan and an MRI?

Both a CT scanner and an MRI scanner are used to take pictures of things inside your body, but they do so in different ways. An MRI scanner uses magnets and radio waves, and is often used to look at issues in and around your brain, heart, blood vessels, breasts, and joints. A CT scanner uses X-rays and is more often used for things like bones, tumors, and to find internal bleeding.

Each type of scan has advantages and disadvantages. An MRI scan usually provides highly detailed images, while a CT scan is faster and can look at tissues, organs, bones, and the larger structures in an area of your body. For an MRI scan, the patient has to lie down in a loud tube, and the magnets can cause problems with metal implants in the body. For a CT scan, the patient is exposed to a small dose of radiation, and it may be a risk to unborn babies.

Both the MRI and CT scanners are useful tools in diagnosing a medical problem. Your doctor can talk to you about which type of scan they think will be best to address your specific concern.