How to tell the difference between x-rays and scans it difficult to know what each one does.
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create images of the inside of the body. These are more detailed than those obtained with other forms of imaging, and can be very useful for diagnosing problems with
- brain and spinal cord
- bones and joints
- heart and blood vessels
- internal organs, such as the liver, womb or prostate gland
The results of an MRI scan can be used to help diagnose conditions, plan treatments and assess how effective previous treatment has been.
X-Rays use radiation to create an image on a screen. The radiation passes through thin tissues and fluid, so they show up as a dark area, while bones and other dense tissues block the rays, so these show up as light areas. X-rays can be used to diagnose –
- bone fractures and breaks
- tooth problems, such as loose teeth and dental abscesses
- scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- non-cancerous and cancerous bone tumours
- lung problems, such as pneumonia and lung cancer
- dysphagia (swallowing problems)
- heart problems, such as heart failure
- breast cancer
An Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves, which can pass through fluid and less dense tissue, and the echo of these is used to create an image. Ultrasound can be used to diagnose problems affecting soft tissues, such as the pelvic organs, the heart, tendons and muscles, and of course keeping an eye on baby.
A CT (computed tomography) uses a combination of series of x-rays taken at different angles and a computer to create a series of 3D images. These are much more detailed than a standard X-ray, and can be used for –
- diagnose conditions – including damage to bones, injuries to internal organs, problems with blood flow, stroke, and cancer
- guide further tests or treatments – for example, CT scans can help determine the location, size and shape of a tumour before having radiotherapy, or allow a doctor to take a needle biopsy (where a small tissue sample is removed using a needle) or drain an abscess
- monitor conditions – including checking the size of tumours during and after cancer treatment