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Martha Jefferson Monday: What’s the Difference Between a CT and MRI Scan?

CT and MRI Scans are both used by doctors to diagnose problems.

"There are lots of different reasons to get a CT scan and lots of different reasons to get an MRI," said Dr. Jon Ciambotti, a radiologist at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

To capture the images during each test, different methods are used depending on the type of scan.

"An MRI scan uses a high magnetic field to create images of the inside of your body," said Ciambotti.  "A CT scan uses radiation and MRI does not use any radiation."

Doctors say another difference between the two tests is the length of time they take.

"The CT scan is very quick and fast, generally speaking, so it's over within 10- 15 minutes. An MRI scanner is much longer, usually 20-30 minutes of image acquisition time."

Recently, the technology for both has significantly improved, ensuring better care for the patient. There is now an MRI with a wider opening used at Martha Jefferson for patients who are claustrophobic or obese.

In addition, lower amounts of radiation are needed during a CT scan, but the result is even higher-quality images than were possible in the past.

In the end, with both scans images are processed and uploaded for a physician to examine. If one test doesn't provide enough information, the other may be ordered to help complete the story.

"A lot of times we'll end up doing both, because they are looking at the body in two different ways, giving us different information," noted Ciambotti.

For more information on this topic, call Health Connection at (434) 654-7009.

If you have a question that you would like for us to ask the experts about your health, email us at healthquestion@nbc29.com.

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