How Do MRI and CT Scans Affect My Body?

October 28, 2020 – 3 min read

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How Do MRI and CT Scans Affect My Body?

Since the invention of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scans, the quality of images each produces has improved dramatically. As a result, the uses have grown for each. However, as helpful as these diagnostic images are for the proper diagnosis of health maladies ranging from heart disease and cancer to back pain and arthritis, there is some fear that they carry inherent risk.

When considering MRI vs. CT scan, the dangers are minimal, but it’s important to know them up front.

What Are the Dangers in Receiving an MRI?

Primarily used to view injury and disease in the body’s muscles, organs and other soft tissues, MRI scans emit no radiation. Rather, an MRI utilizes magnetic and radio waves to help physicians have a clear view of the body’s soft tissues.

For otherwise healthy individuals, an MRI poses no threat. However, individuals with metal implanted in their body are cautioned against MRI scans, as the magnet will pull on the implant and potentially cause injury. Additionally, some people are allergic to the contrast agent used in some MRI scans, and others experience a rise in body temperature due to the radiofrequency used.

At American Health Imaging (AHI), MRI scans are available in a traditional, closed setting. Additionally, AHI offers an open MRI, stand-up MRI and Advanced Open MRI. The appropriate machine is chosen based on the individual’s condition and purpose of the scan.

What Are the Dangers in Receiving a CT Scan?

During a CT scan, X-ray technology takes cross-sectional images of bones, organs, blood vessels, muscles, blood clots and tumors. These individual images can then be combined into a 3-dimensional image for diagnosis, disease staging and more. Common conditions that call for a CT scan range from sinusitis and muscle tears to heart disease and cancer.

Though radiation exposure from a CT scan is less than that from a traditional X-ray, CT scans do expose you to a small level of radiation. At this time, the amount of radiation exposure that occurs during a CT scan is not considered dangerous for adults. There is some concern that excessive scans increase the risk for certain cancers, but most researchers agree that the benefit of CT scans outweighs any potential risk.

Can I Get Too Many Scans in a Year?

At present, there is no upper limit on the number of scans that are safe to undergo in a calendar year. That said, research is ongoing to determine if a limit should be set.

In the meantime, two questions can help guide your decision to undergo an MRI or CT scan.

  1. What positive benefit will the recommended imaging test have on your overall health?
  2. Is there an alternative scan that provides the same information to help your physician with an appropriate diagnosis, treatment plan or follow-up?

If you’re unsure of the answer to either of these questions, contact AHI or consult your physician. With these questions answered, you will be more at ease when heading in for a CT or MRI scan.


Learn more about imaging services at American Health Imaging.