-- Question: What Is The Difference Between An MRI And A CAT Scan, And When Should Either Be Used To Diagnose Pain?
Answer: An MRI, or magnetic resonance image, is a useful tool in evaluating the spine.
An MRI is non-invasive, does not use radiation, and provides good visualization of the spinal ligaments, a herniated disc, bony infection of the spine or disc, a tumor, and spinal cord compression or damage. You cannot have an MRI if you already have a cardiac pacemaker or certain types of aneurysm clips, for example.
A CAT scan, or a computed tomography scan, uses radiation to evaluate spinal abnormalities. For instance, a CT scan can be used to evaluate spinal fractures, disc herniation, and spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal. CT scanning is more rapid than an MRI, and provides better detail of the bones of your spine.
If your physician believes that your painful symptoms may derive from an infection or tumor in the spine, he or she may order an MRI. Either an MRI or a CAT scan is used to help diagnose disc herniation and spinal stenosis as the reason for your pain.