What Is the Difference Between PET, MRI, and CT Scans?

Jan 18, 2021

What Is the Difference Between PET, MRI, and CT ScansWhether you’ve been injured in a car accident, a slip and fall, or simply woke up one morning in pain, the first step towards recovery will be understanding exactly what the root cause of your discomfort is. Modern technology allows for precise and extensive diagnostic imaging that has made it much easier for doctors to identify any injuries or conditions and begin creating plans for treatment. For simple injuries, or to rule out things like a broken bone, you may undergo an x-Ray. However, if more information is needed, you’ll likely be sent to a Marietta imaging center for further tests. There are a variety of commons scans that can all provide different information, so it’s helpful to understand which tests you may have when.

CT Scan

CT ScanSometimes called a CAT scan, a computerized tomography scan uses x-ray technology to provide more in-depth imaging. Rather than a single image, a series of x-rays are taken from different positions and combined using computer technology to create detailed images.

This more detailed scan gives much more visibility into the body, allowing it to be viewed from multiple angles. CT scans provide a 3D image, so while you may find similar injuries that you would with an x-ray, they are more detailed in precise. This can be especially beneficial when detecting small things like tumors, or for identifying internal bleeding.

CT scans contain radiation, so they should be used in moderation. The body can be at risk of overexposure if it undergoes an x-ray or CT scan too often. For this reason, working with an expert radiologist is important. They will understand the limits your body has and work with you to determine the right scans for your needs.


MRIMagnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI, is a type of scan that does not rely on radiation, but instead uses a combination of radio waves and magnetic force to produce images. These images are different than what you would see in an x-ray or CT scan, though they may help identify similar disorders.

MRIs are most often used to identify any damaged tissues in the body, like a torn ligament, though they can also identify problems like a broken bone. Often when a CT scan or x-ray doesn’t provide enough detail, an MRI will be ordered to get more information.

The process of getting an MRI can be daunting for some people. In most cases, you will be placed inside a large, metal tube that produces the images while you lie still. This can take upwards of 90 minutes depending on the type and number of images needed. You may be given a contrast dye to ingest to help make images more clear. Nothing about an MRI is painful, but the enclosed space of the tube induces anxiety for some people. You can ask your Marietta imaging center if they offer open MRIs or sedatives if you are worried about severe claustrophobia.

PET Scan

PET ScanPositron emission tomography, or PET scan, is a kind of imaging that uses small particles entered into the bloodstream in order to view bodily organs by using the flow of blood as a delivery mechanism. Before a PET scan, a radiologist will inject a liquid containing small amounts of radiation into your vein, allowing it to spread through the bloodstream. Blood usually collects near affected organs, meaning this liquid will do the same. A scanner can then be passed over your body to pick up radiation in the blood, and the images are transmitted to a computer for viewing.

A PET scan is most often used for organ and blood-related disorders, as well as documenting certain brain activity. They can also be used to test various forms of treatment for cancer and other illnesses. Because a PET scan produces less detailed images than CT or MRI scans, you may see your radiologist use a PET-CT scan, which combines the images of both tools to create a more accurate picture. This is especially common when scans are being used to identify cancers.

The Right Scan for You

If you need to undergo diagnostic imaging, you’ll want to work with an expert to determine what scan is best for you. This decision will be a combination of factors, including the risk associated with radiation levels and what you may be looking to diagnose. At AICA Marietta, our Marietta imaging center is filled with specialists who are here to help you understand any tests and the results of those tests. Then, they will work to create personalized plans for recovery based on this information. One of the things they could suggest is chiropractic treatment for your injuries and pain. Contact AICA Marietta today to schedule your first appointment!