What Benefits do MRI Scans Have Over Other Imaging Modalities?

When physicians need to look inside your body, whether to screen for a disease or diagnose a condition, they often will use a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This type of scan uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of the body.

But MRI scans aren’t the only technology doctors use for medical imaging. So what makes MRI stand out from other imaging modalities?

MRI compared to CT

Computed tomography (CT) scans, also known as CAT scans, produce 2-dimensional images of a section of the body, similar to looking at an individual slice of a loaf of bread. CT scans do this by emitting a series of narrow beams through the body. 

CT scans can expose you to relatively high levels of radiation. Since you should not be exposed to radiation unless it is absolutely necessary, CT scans are not effective for regular screenings.

MRI is usually the superior option for looking at soft tissues, since it can better differentiate between fat, water, and muscle than CT. This can help physicians notice abnormalities and diagnose a greater variety of conditions. Because MRI scans do not involve radiation, they are also safe to use as screening tools.

MRI compared to PET

Positron emission tomography (PET) scans use a special dye containing radioactive tracers that can show how your organs and tissues function. The PET scan follows the tracers as they are swallowed, inhaled, or injected; they may collect in areas that indicate disease, or move through the body to indicate measures like blood flow or oxygen use. Like CT scans, PET scans use radiation, making them a poor option for regular disease screenings.

PET scans may be used with MRI scans to compare the body’s functioning with detailed still images. Because PET scans look at the functions of the body, rather than specific areas, their images are usually less detailed. MRI scans produce clear images that allow physicians to focus on a particular area.

MRI benefits over X-Rays

X-rays are one of the oldest medical imaging modalities still in use, and are usually fast and painless. X-rays are primarily used for images of bones and teeth, though they can also be used to look at organs and tissues. Like other types of imaging, they do still require some radiation exposure.

However, X-ray images are not very detailed, and many tissues surrounding the bones may not show up. MRI scans can show tissues, organs, and blood vessels in greater detail. Like X-rays, MRI also can help diagnose bone and joint problems.

MRI benefits over ultrasound

Ultrasound is used in a way similar to PET scans, since it can show the body functioning in real time. Ultrasound does not need to use radiation, however; it uses high-frequency sound waves to create images.

Still images from an ultrasound are only moderately detailed. An MRI scan is often used to confirm ultrasound findings, or to get detailed images if the ultrasound is inconclusive. MRI can also create clearer images deeper in the body, or of more complex injuries, compared to ultrasound.

Unlike many other types of medical imaging, full-body MRI scans can create highly detailed images without need to expose you to harmful radiation. You also don’t need any special preparation or recovery time for an MRI, and the experience is completely pain-free. Get started today with a full-body MRI scan from Ezra AI.