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Feb 4, 2000
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CT is good for visceral structures. Small bowel, Large bowel, stomach, pancreas, liver, etc.

MR is generally better for soft tissue (neck, bone, ligaments, extremities)

CTs are quick and easy and are generally preferred in trauma or acute situations.

Overall, MR is a better quality picture and doesnt exposure the patient to the radiation. Remember your patients who CANNOT have MRIs (pacemakers, etc).

If you need quick answers, get the CT. If you need a bit more detail and have the time (and $$$) then MR is a good option.


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Dec 12, 2006
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Please can someone explain absolutely when CT is preferred to MRI and vice versa? I always hear CT-bone, but what else? ( I have a hard time getting answers to this)

The reason you have a hard time getting a good answer to this question is that it is highly variable depending on the structure you are looking at and the pathology you are searching for. For example, MRI is the preferred modality for evaluating some bone pathology (osteomyelitis) but is never preferred to CT for evaluating fractures.

The technological advances in CT scanning (and the newer techniques of CT angiography and arthrography) are further blurring the lines, and the literature is still exploring the relative value of each modality with reference to specific diagnostic problems. See some of the recent papers on the use of MRI for appendicitis; intuitively this would seem superior to CT scanning, but research suggests just the opposite.

I would suggest getting a handle on the CT/MRI issue with reference to specific clinical problems, rather than seeking a generalized answer.