What Imaging Do I Need, X-Ray, MRI or Ultrasound?

July 31, 2023
by Kolton Opdahl

In today’s blog, we will break down the frequently asked question: What Imaging Do I Need, X-Ray, MRI or Ultrasound? Have you ever thought about why your physician prefers to request a particular type of imaging over another? Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and x-ray are three techniques that may be employed for similar purposes. Knowing the distinctions between them, as well as their advantages and limitations, can provide you with insight into why your doctor chose one over the other.

Radiation Risks

One of the major differences between x-ray, MRI and ultrasound is the use of ionizing radiation that is associated with the risk of cancer. Both MRI and ultrasound have the benefit of providing doctors with a view inside the body without employing ionizing radiation. This is linked to a heightened cancer risk. MRI employs a strong magnet to align the water molecules in the body. The scanner then captures and converts into a 3D image of the internal body structure. In contrast, ultrasound technology sends high-frequency sound waves through the body, and echoes are detected to generate an image, much like how sonar is used by bats or submarines.

Imaging Capabilities and Limitations

Ultrasound and MRI are both effective in evaluating the state of organs and soft tissues, including the breasts and blood vessels. However, ultrasound waves have difficulty passing through bone or gas. As a result, MRI or another imaging technique is typically advised when doctors need to see what’s happening inside or behind bony structures or air-filled organs, such as the lungs or bowel.

When it comes to imaging, an ultrasound examination can generate images rapidly and in real-time, making it simple to observe movement. Although MRI images can provide more detailed information, capturing these images is time-consuming, and the images themselves are typically static.

Similar to an ultrasound examination x-rays are able to completed quickly and effectively thanks to digital technology. This allows processing x-rays to be almost instant.

X-rays are ideal for spotting:

  • Fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Misalignments
  • Narrowed joint spaces

An X-ray won’t show subtle bone injuries, soft tissue injuries or inflammation. However, even if your doctor suspects a soft tissue injury like a tendon tear, an X-ray might be ordered to rule out a fracture. Now, you still may be wondering why What Imaging Do I Need? X-Ray vs MRI vs Ultrasound

Patient Tolerance

Some patients struggle to undergo MRI exams due to pain, physical limitations, or psychological issues such as claustrophobia and anxiety. The procedure necessitates patients to remain motionless for extended periods, and the MRI machine can feel restrictive. The use of wide-bore and open-bore MRI machines can alleviate the feeling of confinement. Sedatives may also help certain patients tolerate the procedure. However, in certain situations, an alternative imaging method may be preferable.

What Imaging Do I Need X-Ray MRI or Ultrasound?

Imaging Cost

MRI equipment is much more costly and larger than ultrasound or x-ray machines. This makes ultrasound and x-ray more widely accessible to patients across the country. In some cases, ultrasound and x-ray may be used as the primary imaging methods to locate the origin of a problem. Afterwards they may utilize follow-up MRI or CT scans performed for a more detailed view if required.

At Opdahl Regenerative Medicine, we strive to empower patients with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health. Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog: What Imaging Do I Need, X-Ray, MRI or Ultrasound?

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