If your doctor has told you that he or she is going to order an imaging scan, two of the most common options are X-rays and MRIs. They are very different scans, and they are used for different purposes. What do you need to know about X-rays and MRIs? How are they different from each other?
First, it is important to take a look at how each scan generates an image. An x-ray uses small beams of radiation to generate an image. Radiation passing through different surfaces based on how dense they are. X-rays pass through solid media more quickly than liquid or air. Therefore, solid material shows up white on an X-ray, whereas lighter material shows up dark. That is why bone shows up light on an x-ray while soft tissue and liquid in the body appear darker.
An MRI does not use any radiation to generate an image. Instead, and MRI uses powerful magnets to generate imaging scans. When this magnet is turned on, nuclei in the body will spin in different directions. Based on how these nuclei spin, an MRI scan will generate images differently. Therefore, even though two materials may have similar densities, they may show up differently on an MRI scan if their nuclei are spinning in different directions.
An x-ray is one of the fastest imaging scans. Therefore, a doctor will commonly order an X-ray in an emergency situation. One of the most common reasons why a doctor may order an X-ray is if he or she suspects a bone fracture. Because an x-ray is great at showing dense, hard bone against soft tissue, this is one of the top scans to detect bone fractures.
Doctors may also decide to order an X-ray if they suspect kidney stones, skull injuries, or gallstones. Because these scans usually involve looking at hard items and surfaces, x-rays are good choices.
An MRI takes much longer to complete; however, it does produce a much more detailed image. Therefore, if time is not a major factor, a doctor may order an MRI to produce a more detailed image. Doctors commonly order MRIs if they suspect soft tissue injuries, as these do not show up as well on x-rays. For example, if a doctor is looking for a ligament tear, an MRI may be ordered. Or, if a doctor is trying to get a closer look at the structure of the brain, he or she may order an MRI for this scenario as well. An MRI is commonly ordered for possible organ injuries as well.
There are several major advantages of ordering an x-ray. These include:
Because of these advantages, doctors order x-rays relatively frequently.
There are several advantages of ordering an MRI as well. These include:
Doctors commonly order MRIs when they require a very detailed image.
There are several disadvantages of using an x-ray as well. These include:
These disadvantages have to be weighed against the benefits before making a decision.
There are several disadvantages of ordering an MRI scan as well. These include:
Even though these drawbacks can be significant, an MRI produces a very detailed image that can be helpful in certain situations.
These are just a few of the most important points that everyone should keep in mind when it comes to imaging scans. In addition to x-rays and MRIs, doctors may also order CT scans, ultrasound images, or PET scans. If you have an imaging scan coming up, you need to know what to expect. That is where we can help you. If you have been hurt in an accident and you have imaging scans coming up, we are here to help you. At Doctor Wagner, we always place the needs of our patients ahead of our own. We would be happy to help you as well. Please contact us today to make an appointment!