X-ray vs MRI: Which Is Better?

X-rays vs MRI's: Which is better?

All diagnostic imaging scans are not made equally. While hearing your doctor suggest one of the many procedures, questions may arise and differentiating between the different types of scans can be confusing. We are here to clear up the difference between two of the most common scans, x-rays and MRI's. 

Turns out there are multiple differences between these two imaging techniques and as far as which one is better, it all depends on what kind of images you are looking to get. Here is a comparison of the two techniques that will hopefully help you understand what they are and what purpose they provide. 

Radiation Exposure

This is one key difference between x-rays and MRI's. While x-ray expose the patient to dangerous radiation (hence the name x-radiation, or x-ray for short), MRI's don't use radiation at all (hence the name Magnetic Resonance Imaging, because magnets are used instead)... definitely one benefit to MRI's.


It's pretty commonly known that x-rays are used to examine broken bones, but they can also be used to look for diseased tissues as well. MRI's are best used for soft tissue evaluation, so looking into tendon and ligament damage, spinal cord injuries, brain tumors, etc.

Side effects

Since x-rays do use radiation and radiation can alter human DNA, it's possible that x-rays can cause more biological issues. MRI's on the other hand, don't result in any biological hazards since no radiation is used.


X-rays are generally much cheaper than MRI's, coming in at $70 on average compared to about $1,200 on average for MRI's.  If you decide to get an MRI at our center, our cash pay pricing starts at half that price. 

Procedure Duration

X-rays only last a few seconds whereas MRI's can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours. This explains why x-rays aren't completely unsafe; the patient is only exposed to radiation for a short period of time, so it's relatively safe in moderation.

Image Details

X-ray of Knee

X-ray of Knee

MRI of Knee

MRI of Knee

Since the purpose of the two imaging techniques are different, it makes sense that x-rays provide more detailed images of bone structures while MRI's provide more detailed images of soft tissues (as seen in the two pictures of a knee). X-rays show the difference between soft tissue and bone density, while MRI's show the difference between different kinds of soft tissues. 


MRI's are actually the more versatile of the two techniques. Since the machine can take images on multiple planes or in 3D, it can be used for more medical procedures to diagnose a wider range of medical conditions.

We hope this comparison of the two modalities will help you in deciding which best suits your needs.  If you are in need of an MRI scan, Kerrville Imaging offers the highest quality Open MRI services.