What Is The Difference Between CT Scans and MRI Scans?

A patient undergoing an MRI scan as an MRI tech looks on.

Are you looking for an El Paso clinic offering CT or MRI scans? Do you need to know more about the procedures before seeing a professional? Adult Primary Care & Pediatrics has all the information you are looking for. While MRIs and CT scans are used to capture images within the body, they differ in many ways. Depending on your health concerns, you will eventually find whether one or the other is the better option. 

What are MRIs? 

Magnetic resonance imaging—MRI for short—uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. During an MRI, a patient lies down on a table and is moved into the scanner on a motorized bed. The internal part of the magnet produced repetitive tapping, thumping, or other noises. Patients are offered earplugs to help block the noise. 


What major benefits do MRIs have to offer? Well, MRIs can diagnose diseases that are not easily detected, such as some cancers, including: 

  • Prostate cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Certain liver cancers 

Metastases, the development or growth of cancer of the bones or brain, also show up better on an MRI scan. MRI imaging is also used for many other medical concerns besides cancers, including soft tissue injuries, injury, or disease of internal organs such as the digestive organs. These areas are also looked at through MRI scans: 

  • Joints
  • Brain
  • Wrists
  • Ankles
  • Chest/breasts
  • Heart
  • Blood vessels 


One of the main inconveniences of MRIs is that they take longer than CT scans. They require patients to lie still within the enclosed scanner for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. The procedure is very noisy and can be anxiety-inducing for some patients. MRIs pose very small risks of affecting your hearing shortly after the procedure, claustrophobia, and possible reactions to the metals in the magnets. 

What are CT Scans?

Very similar to MRIs, CT—computed tomography—scans also use X-rays to create detailed pictures of organs, but especially bones and other tissues. The patient is also set to lie down on a table that moves them into the scanning ring. The scanner can collect data to assemble three-dimensional images. The images reveal the following:

  • Abnormalities in the bones and soft tissues 
  • Pneumonia in the lungs 
  • Tumors in different organs 
  • Bone fractures
  • Cancer
  • Internal bleeding 


With a CT scan, patients can look at an image that captures the entire body, from the neck to the thighs, all within seconds. CT scans are very useful when it comes to diagnosing and staging cancer, checking on whether it has come back, and monitoring how effective the treatment is. CT scans are best for monitoring cancer because it surveys where it could spread throughout the entire body, including the lungs, liver, or bones. 


CTs and X-rays are known to pose very few risks because they use ionizing radiation. The upside to a CT scan is that they do not require as much time as an MRI scan, and images can be provided quickly. 

Get the Healthcare Services You Need at Our El Paso Primary Care Clinic 

At Adult Primary Care & Pediatrics, we provide medical care to El Paso’s families. We offer internal medicine and pediatric services. Walk-ins welcome! we take the best approach possible to provide treatment and care for your health concerns. Learn more about the services that we offer here at Adult Primary Care and Pediatrics. Get in touch to make an appointment by calling (915) 225-4470 today! 

Scroll to Top