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CT vs. MR – How does my doctor choose?

Although the machines look similar from the outside, and patients lie on a table while being scanned with both, CT and MR scanners are very different on the inside. Both are extremely important in the practice of radiology, each with its own strengths. 

There is a great deal of overlap in how these tools are used. FRC radiologists are available to consult with your doctor to choose the most appropriate imaging method for your particular situation. 


Computed Tomography obtains cross sectional images of the body using xrays. It can:

  • Separate overlapping structures
  • Evaluate the airway and lungs
  • Evaluate bony structures and may detect small fractures


Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses a powerful magnetic field and radio frequency to generate images of the body in multiple planes without radiation. It can:

  • Show differences between soft tissues, even without the use of contrast
  • Diagnose conditions that affect the brain or spinal cord
  • Evaluate joint and ligament abnormalities

Both can be used to:

  • Detect cancers and measure treatment response
  • Image the heart (MR is able to also assess function)
  • Image the brain and spine (although CT is usually used in the acute setting or as a screening test)

Talk with your doctor about which test is right for you. Whichever exam you choose, FRC is clearly focused on you.

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