Which Is Better: MRI or CT Scan for the Brain?

How does your physician decide to recommend an MRI or a CT scan? Typically it depends on what condition they suspect and where the problem is located. Which is better: MRI or CT scan for the brain?

Some Differences Between CT Scans and an MRI Scan

Computerized tomography, or CT scan, uses a series of X-rays to produce cross sectional 3D pictures from inside the body. Sometimes called a CAT scan, it is mainly used for bone fractures, tumors, monitoring cancer, and detecting internal bleeding. It has excellent resolution.

An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a more detailed image using radio waves and a strong magnet. This scan helps to diagnose issues with joints, the brain, wrist and ankles, breasts, heart, and blood vessels. The radio waves are sent to a receiver which is then translated into an image. This type of scan has better contrast resolution.

However, both types of scans can diagnose and stage cancers.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantage of an MRI?

Advantages of an MRI include the following:Patient in MRI scan.

  • Has more detailed images
  • No radiation is used
  • Can identify issues in soft tissues, joints, organs, the brain, and the heart

Disadvantages of an MRI include:

  • Very loud
  • Any metal objects in a patient’s body can interfere with the scan
  • Difficult to complete if the patient is claustrophobic
  • Possibility of contrast dye allergy

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantage of a CT Scan?

Advantages of a CT scan include the following:

  • Less expensive
  • Takes less time
  • Does not require the whole body to enter the scan

Disadvantages of a CT scan include: 

  • Can increase risk of cancer later in life
  • Patient gets a dose of ionizing radiation similar to mammograms
  • Pregnant women are disqualified
  • Possibility of a contrast dye allergy

Which Type of Scan Is Better for the Brain?

Both CT and MRI scans have allowed physicians to look at a patient’s brain in a non-invasive manner. Exploratory surgery is no longer needed. 

Three criteria are used to determine which type of scan your doctor chooses:

  1. How quickly the scan is needed
  2. Which part of the brain is being examined
  3. The age of the patient

Ultimately, an MRI scan is preferred when looking for a brain tumor. An MRI differentiates between normal tissue and cancer tissue since it helps cancerous tissue stand out from normal tissue. 

Contact Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center at (214) 345-6905 if you have questions or concerns about a scheduled MRI or CT scan.