Why is the CT scan the first imaging tool of choice for acute abdominal pain since it emits radiation?

What if the patient in the ER insists on an MRI to avoid the radiation exposure?

“There are some diagnoses that are well-evaluated with MRI,” says Resham Mendi, MD, a renowned expert in the field of medical imaging, and the medical director of Bright Light Medical Imaging.

Dr. Mendi continues, “The choice of which test to do on a patient is made on an individual basis.

“CT is the first choice in many patients with acute abdominal pain because it is much easier to get a patient in and out of the CT scanner in an expedient fashion.

“A CT takes, on average, less than 60 seconds while an abdominal MRI takes closer to 30 minutes. For this reason, wait time and scan times for MRI are much longer than CT.

“The abdomen and pelvis can both be scanned together in one shot with CT (roughly 60 seconds total).

“For MRI, it usually has to be done as two separate studies (each taking roughly 30 minutes).”

CT Scan’s Sensitivity vs. MRI for the Abdomen

“CT is more sensitive for detection of inflammatory processes in the intestines than MRI in many cases,” says Dr. Mendi. “It can also be more sensitive for other diseases.

“Because MRI takes longer, it is more susceptible to motion artifact than CT.

“This can make it difficult to evaluate some areas in the abdomen because the intestines are constantly moving.”

Finally, an MRI (magnetic resonance image) is much more expensive than is a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan.

dr. mendi
Dr. Mendi has published several articles in radiology journals and has expertise in MRI, women’s imaging, musculoskeletal, neurological and body imaging.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



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