MRI Vs. CT: What's The Difference?

Difference between MRI and CT, MRI vs CT

Computed Tomography (CT) scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans both provide diagnostic images of the inside of your body. However, they accomplish this important task in very different ways. So, how can you identify the differences between all of this medical jargon? Easy - with our help. We’re breaking down the differences between these popular imaging scans:


CT scans are most commonly used to view bone injuries, problems in the lungs or chest, and for detecting cancer. MRI’s, on the other hand, are better suited for examining soft tissue injuries, particularly in the ligaments or tendons. They can also detect spinal cord injuries and brain tumors.


CT’s are generally less expensive than MRI’s. A CT scan can cost anywhere between $1,200 and $3,200, whereas MRI’s can range anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000.

Radiation Exposure

A CT scan utilizes x-ray technology in order to produce diagnostic images. This exposes patients to low but significant amounts of radiation. Constant exposure to high levels of radiation increases the risk of cancer, so patients are advised against unnecessary CT scans. An MRI uses radio waves and powerful magnets to produce diagnostic images. A major benefit of an MRI is that the scan is radiation-free.

Scan time

CT scans are usually completed within 5 minutes, and the actual scan time can be less than 30 seconds. CT’s are more commonly used in emergency rooms due to their quick scan times. MRI scan time can range from 15 minutes to two hours. This can cause anxiety in patients who are claustrophobic.


Each scan has its limitations, CT’s are great for injuries related to bone and can pinpoint the size and location of tumors, but they’re not as easily equipped for getting multiple angles without moving the patient. While MRI’s can produce images in any plane, they have more restrictions for patients. Patients with cardiac pacemakers, tattoos, and metal implants are sometimes unable to have the procedure. Patients can get a CT scan regardless of metal implants, but anyone who weighs over 450 pounds may not physically fit inside the scanner or may be over the weight limit for the table. MRI’s provide open options that accommodate heavier patients.

Discuss with your physician which scan is best for you! For all your MRI needs, Kerville Imaging, provides open MRI technology that increases patient comfort while providing quality diagnostic images. You can request an appointment online today!