Yes! While all three are forms of diagnostic imaging - technology that allows doctors to see inside your body to diagnose conditions - they vary significantly in their uses. Here's how.
Anyone who's ever broken a bone, or even just gone to the dentist, has gotten an X-ray. X-rays (or radiography) use ionizing radiation to form clear images of the internal parts of the body. These electromagnetic waves pass through your body. Areas with high levels of calcium (bones and teeth) block the radiation, causing them to appear white on the image. Soft tissues allow the radiation to pass through and appear gray or black on the image. X-rays are the fastest and most accessible imaging services and are often considered the first line of imaging.
X-rays are optimal for examining bones and teeth, but less effective in diagnosing conditions within the body's softer tissue.
CT scans, also known as computed tomography, may be used to evaluate head trauma, bone fractures, pneumonia, internal bleeding, issues concerning internal organs, tumors, and the development of cancer or its response to treatment. Doctors order CT scans more often because they're less expensive and faster than MRIs, yet still provide high-quality images they need to make a diagnosis. However, because CT scans do use a small dose of ionizing radiation doctors may refer patients who are pregnant or that require a clearer image to get an MRI.
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