Card image cap

CT Scan vs. MRI: The Key Differences

December 10, 2020

CT scanners and MRI machines may look exactly the same, but they are not the same. These two pieces of medical equipment are quite different from each other. In this article, we will explain the key differences between CT scans and MRI machines. We hope that this information will help you decide which one to buy.  

CT scans and MRI machines are both doughnut-shaped imaging systems used to view the patient's organs and tissues. The patient lays on the table, and the motorized table slowly passes through the machine as the scan is being done.

Even though these scanners seem the same, they aren't. CT scanners and MRI machines take medical images in different ways.

What are the main differences between a CT and an MRI?

MRI machines are radiation-free imaging systems. They use a magnet and a specialist computer to create scan images. In contrast, CT scans don't use a magnetic field. They use x-rays to take scan images instead.

What are they mainly used for?

Although these imaging systems take images differently, CT scans and MRI machines take images of similar body parts. The imaging systems can diagnose issues in the heart, brain, lungs, and other organs.

MRI machines can provide more detailed images, so radiologists prefer to use MRIs for soft tissue problems like herniated discs, torn ligaments, or a tendon injury. On the other hand, CT scans are frequently used to detect tumors, lung problems, and cardiovascular abnormalities like blockages in the blood vessels, aneurysms, and heart disease.

The pros and cons

People with any kind of metal implants can't have an MRI scan because it will interact with the MRI machine's magnet and cause issues. People with pacemakers, dark tattoos, IUD, eye implants can benefit from having a CT scan instead of an MRI scan.  

A CT scanner is faster than an MRI machine. A CT scanner takes on average 10-20 minutes. While MRI machines take 30-90 minutes, depending on the area being imaged and how many images are needed. Even though CT scans are faster, MRI machines take higher quality images.

CT scanners are typically half the price of MRI machines. MRI machines can cost in the region of $200,000-$700,000. However, this does depend on the brand, software included, year of manufacture, coils, etc. Interestingly, brand new CT scanners and MRI machines with high specifications can even reach the million-dollar mark.

CT scans are used more commonly to diagnose diseases than MRI machines; this is reflected in the number of scans done each year! Approximately 80 million CT scans and 40 million MRI scans are performed annually in the US.

CT scanners are radiation-based imaging systems. There is an added worry about using CT scanners because of the radiation involved and the cancer risk. However, the amount of radiation released by a CT scanner is minimal, and they are safe to use - providing they aren't overused without good reason. Still, individuals may prefer to have an MRI scan instead because it is radiation-free.

You can get a lot of usage out of CT scanners and MRI machines because both imaging systems last quite long if they are correctly maintained. CT scanners and MRI machines typically last 8-11 years before needing to be replaced. The imaging systems offer long lifespans. So, hopefully, you won't have to worry about a replacement for quite a while.

CT scanners and MRI machines are brilliant imaging systems that can help diagnose diseases efficiently, so they are vital for hospitals. When deciding to buy a CT scanner or MRI machine, it's important to remember that CT scanners and MRI machines have pros and cons. Therefore, you will need to choose an imaging system, depending on your individual needs. Medical equipment that will fulfill your day to day clinical requirements should be a top priority.

Do you want to buy a used CT scanner or MRI machine?

Mazree is an auction site that specializes in used medical equipment. We have a range of medical equipment, including CT scanners and MRI machines, available on our auction listings. Visit to buy used medical equipment today!

Want to talk to a Mazree team member? Request a demo.