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CAT Scan vs MRI

CAT Scan vs MRI

Many times a doctor has to make a choice between CAT scan and MRI of brain or any other body part, in order to diagnose a certain condition. The method of diagnosis depends on some factors which the doctor must weigh up. This article provides information which will clear up some of the differences between the two diagnostic tools.
Rahul Thadani
When a doctor has to diagnose and treat certain medical ailments and conditions, he/she may resort to the use of medical imaging. This is a technique that has proved very useful to the doctors and medical institutions over the years, as it provides a clear image of any part of the body and determines what is wrong with it. There is much confusion in the minds of people regarding these two methods, that is MRI and CAT scan.
The obvious advantage of both these methods is that they are completely painless and nonintrusive. The affected person experiences no degree of pain or discomfort, and the ease with which the doctor can diagnose the problem is exemplary. However, this is where the similarity between the two ends. Though the method of both these techniques is almost the same, the conditions that both methods detect are very different from each other.
CAT Scan or MRI - Which to Use?
This is a question that is best left in the hands of the specialists. They are the ones who decide which one out of these two tests would be more suitable for the affected person, and would help diagnose his/her condition easily. There are primarily two factors which determine which one is more suitable.
  1. What part of the body is affected?
  2. What is the cause of the examination?
Keeping the answers to these two questions in mind, the doctor would decide about which method of examination one must comply with.
CAT Scan
These are highly specialized kind of X-rays. This method is most suitable for receiving the imaging of bone structures and determining if a person has any kind of brain tumor. One is required to lie down on a couch, which slides into a chamber which carries out the X-ray of the entire body. The X-rays rotate around his/her entire body, and transfers the results to a computer which helps the doctor analyze the situation. Computer Axial Tomography (CAT) scans are extremely useful for determining the anatomy and structure of bones and organs, and as a result help in locating tumors on the bone. Internal bleeding, fractures, and even brain cancer can be detected on a person using these scans.
MRI
Magnetic resonance imaging scan does not use X-rays like a CAT scan does. Instead, this method utilizes the ability of creating a magnetic force inside one's body. The equipment that is used to carry out the scan is a large magnet in the shape of a tube. One lies on a flat surface, which is then transported inside the tube. The machine sends magnetic waves and radio waves through his/her body, and collects them through the water cells in the body. This information is transferred to a computer, which then generates an image of the interiors of the body. This scan primarily examines the tissues, the skeletal system, and the organs of the body. Any heart disease damage or spinal column injury can also be easily located through it.
Cost
The cost factor is another parameter when one considers the two tests. The cheaper one out of the two is the CAT scan, as it costs anything between $1,200-$3,500. The disadvantage of the CAT scan though is that it is not performed at every hospital. On the other hand, an MRI is slightly more expensive, and it will cost around $1,500-$4,000. But its glaring advantage is that it can be performed easily at almost any hospital.
Factor CAT Scan MRI
Bony Structures Provides good details, and is preferable Provides comparatively lesser amount of details
Radiation Exposure Moderate to high degree of exposure No exposure to radiation
Method of Imaging X-Rays Magnetic waves and radio waves
Time for Scan 5-10 minutes Around 30 minutes
Soft Tissue Details Lesser amount of details Higher amount of details.

PET Scan
Another alternative to diagnosing some medical conditions is the PET scan, or the positron emission tomography scan. This method is commonly used to distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous cells, or live tissue and dead tissue. It is the preferred method to detect cancerous cells. The method of this scan shows the molecules of the body clearly, thus, simplifying the process of detecting dangerous or infected cells or tissue.
On a conclusive note, when the doctor is asked to choose between the two diagnostic tests, he/she will assess the situation first and then recommend a suitable test accordingly. The part of the body that is in question, and the severity of the potential risk will determine which out of these two tests would be suggested.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.