Unexplainable symptoms have come suddenly upon you and your doctor recommends doing a CT scan/ PET scan/ MRI. What should you expect in this process? Well, each patient must know and understand which scan is best suited to their situation.
A CT (computerized tomography) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images, or slices, of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scans can show the exact details of tumors in your body, once they have grown past 2cm. Before a CT scan, a substance is given to the patient which assists in highlighting affected areas. This scan doesn’t take long, most times, 15-20 minutes. The qualities of the CT scan make the CT scan best suited for detecting bone injuries, Lung and Chest imaging and cancer detection. It is Widely used on Emergency Room patients.
An MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures, on a computer, of tissues, organs and other structures inside your body. The MRI scan, uses magnets instead of x-rays to produce an image. The images produced can be clearer with an MRI scan rather than a CT scan in terms of dealing with bodily tissues. Because of its ability to better examine tissues, this scan is better suited to Soft tissue evaluation, e.g., ligament and tendon injury, spinal cord injury, brain tumors, etc. This scan will however, generally take a longer time to be completed rather than a CT scan. It is also reported that because of the difference in machine and the significant length this scan takes, this scan is less comfortable for patients.
A PET scan, (Positron Emission Tomography), uses radioactive positrons (positively charged particles) to detect differences in metabolic and chemical activity in the body. This scan, therefore also involves taking a substance, either by injection or by inhaling, to produce an image that will highlight metabolic and chemical activity in the body. A PET scan, looks at the functioning of the bodily systems, while a CT and MRI scan, will show you the structure. For example, it will identify an area of your body with cancer cells, since cancer cells have more metabolic activity. PET scans are the most sensitive out of these three scans in identifying issues in the body. This process however can take between 30mins – 2hrs depending on the size and part of the body being examined. While they are better at recognizing areas of abnormal activity, the image produced with this scan is not as clear as the CT and MRI images because this image shows an area instead of a structure. PET scans however, find cancers that go undetected by other technologies.
One other option patients have access to is the integrated PET-CT scan. Because a CT scan provides detailed pictures of tissues and organs inside the body, while a PET scan reveals any abnormal activity that might be going on there, combining these scans creates a more complete image than either test can offer alone. This scan can therefore help with detecting cancer and finding out what stage it is in.
In conclusion, a CT scan will be better at detecting a bone issues, while a MRI scan will better detect a tissue issue and a PET scan will tell you which areas are under some pressure. The costs of each scan differs and it is important to know which one is best suited for you with your particular medical condition.