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Abdominal MRI or CT: Which Should I Choose?

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Denpa NewsIn the article, we analyze in detail for which diseases magnetic resonance imaging is needed, and for which computed tomography. We talk about the contraindications of the procedures and the necessary preparation”.
Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography are extremely informative methods of studying the body. The procedures have many similarities and differences. If you need to have an abdominal exam, should you choose an MRI or a CT scan?
What is MRI and CT?

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Both methods are a layer-by-layer study of the body. This is what the term “tomography” (from other Greek – “section”) reflects in the title.

Despite the general principle, the physical methods of obtaining images are different, so some organs and systems inside the body are better seen with X-ray computed tomography, others with magnetic resonance imaging.

Intravenous contrast enhancement can be used in both procedures to assess the blood supply to organs or pathological foci of the disease. To do this, a catheter is placed in the cubital vein and a special contrasting “coloring” substance is introduced during the “photography”.

MRI and CT complement each other.

Computed tomography has established itself as a procedure that quickly produces results of very high accuracy, especially with contrast enhancement of the study. The resulting images reflect the bone structures, lymph nodes, blood vessels, formations of various organs of the study area. CT does not require special preparation and preliminary examinations.

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With computed tomography, the method is based on x-rays. MRI is a non-radiation method of research. With magnetic resonance imaging, a person is exposed to a strong magnetic field, and the image is based on the effect of magnetic resonance from hydrogen proton atoms.

Since both methods create layered images, with which you can create a 3D model of the area under study. The resulting models can be printed on film or transferred to media in the desired projections and scale.
Similarities and differences between procedures
Three Similarities Between MRI and CT

There are few similarities between the two types of tomography, and they relate to the organization of research:

Both procedures take place in outwardly similar tomography devices, while the patient lies down on a special movable table;
During the study, the laboratory assistant monitors the course of the diagnostic process. If a person feels unwell, he can at any time give a signal to the laboratory assistant and stop the procedure. During an MRI, the patient is given a special pear to give a signal.
Both types of tomography are often performed with a contrast agent for a clearer understanding of the nature of the identified pathology (benign or malignant). The result of the procedures is the same – a set of layered images of the examination area on a digital medium and a printed version of the doctor’s report. These results are also available in your personal account, a special secure area on the Internet. This is convenient if you need to send the test results to a clinic in another city or country for consultation with your doctor.
5 differences between MRI and CT

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There are more differences between the procedures than similarities. They are both in conduct and in contraindications:

1. Research time . Computed tomography is performed on average in 3-5 minutes (with contrast enhancement up to 15-20). While magnetic resonance imaging of the abdominal cavity can be performed up to 40 minutes without contrast and up to 60 minutes with it.

2. One of the limitations of MRI follows from the duration of the study: it is difficult to tolerate for people with claustrophobia, young children, people with mental illness or acute pain when it is difficult for a person to be in a sedentary state. After all, here everything happens as in normal photography: if the object moves, then the pictures are fuzzy.

In such a situation, it is better to perform a CT scan, discuss with the attending physician preliminary anesthesia or the selection of an alternative diagnostic method.

3. Sounds during the study. The MRI procedure is quite loud, and the technologist will put noise-canceling headphones on you or give you protective earplugs to avoid discomfort. Computed tomography is silent.

4. Attraction of metal by a magnetic field. Since during an MRI a strong magnetic field acts on the entire body of the patient, people with metal objects should be approached with caution during the procedure:

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  1. pacemakers,
  2. intracranial ferromagnetic hemostatic clips of cerebral vessels;
  3. aortic clips;
  4. electrodes;
  5. ferromagnetic metal implants;
  6. metal structures in the anatomical area to be examined (metal plates, distractors, etc.);
  7. ferromagnetic or electronic middle ear implants;
  8. metal shavings in the eyes.

All of these elements are magnetic. Before the MRI, you must provide a passport for the implanted device, which must indicate its MRI compatibility. An absolute contraindication to MRI is the presence in the patient’s body of metal objects with magnetic properties (implants, prostheses, foreign bodies) and devices (for example, pacemakers). There is no such contraindication for computed tomography.

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5. Restrictions during pregnancy. CT is not recommended for children and pregnant women. Radiation exposure to pregnant women is contraindicated and is possible only when there are vital indications. The decision is made by a board of doctors. It is strongly not recommended to perform an MRI in the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy). During this period, the formation of the internal organs of the fetus takes place and, in this regard, it is undesirable to change the environmental conditions. An MRI at a later date is acceptable if there is a referral from the attending physician.

Also, CT with contrast is prescribed with caution in case of damage to the kidneys and thyroid gland, as well as to people with an increased allergic background and diabetes mellitus (preliminary consultation with an endocrinologist is often necessary to correct therapy).

If you have a reaction to 4 or more allergens, an exacerbation of bronchial asthma, a history of severe allergic reactions (angioedema, bronchospasm, anaphylactic shock), report this information to your doctor and conduct a study in a hospital setting.
Preparing for Abdominal Exams
Before MRI

When examining the organs of the abdominal cavity, retroperitoneal space and small pelvis, stop eating foods rich in fiber and promoting gas formation in two to three days:

  • yeast dough,
  • black bread,
  • legumes and canned vegetables,
  • carbonated drinks and sweets,
  • milk,
  • alcohol.

Take activated charcoal before the procedure.

The study is carried out on an empty stomach, the last meal should occur 6 hours before the procedures. You can drink water in small quantities and take medicines. Also, the attending physician may recommend that you take two tablets of antispasmodic drugs, for example, No-shpa, 30 minutes before the study, to eliminate artifacts from intestinal motility (movement).
Before CT

Three to four days completely before the CT scan, exclude heavy, fatty foods, nuts, sweets and any flour products. Avoid strong tea and coffee. The best diet will be boiled fish, vegetables, light soups and broths. The last meal can be taken 6 hours before the procedure. During CT, antispasmodic drugs may also be needed to eliminate artifacts from intestinal motility (movement).
What is the difference between the results of MRI and CT scan of the abdomen?

Since different technologies are used in studies, MRI and CT are sensitive to different tissues.

Computed tomography provides more information about dense formations, bone tissue, and the state of blood vessels. When evaluating chest organs, kidney stones, CT is the method of choice.

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Magnetic resonance imaging is more sensitive to soft tissues and fluids. On the images, the doctor will be able to examine the early stages of neoplasms, circulatory disorders, metastases and hematomas, abscesses, chronic organ damage.
Does the choice of procedure depend on the disease?

The first thing to do is to see a doctor! Only a doctor who has all the information about your problems will be able to make the right choice of diagnostic technique.

But life sometimes dictates its own adjustments, and if you decide to undergo an examination on your own, it is important to figure out which diseases each type of tomography will be more informative for.

Computed tomography should be chosen for diseases such as:

  • injuries, damage to the ureters, kidneys, ruptures of the renal capsule;
  • X-ray positive stones in the kidneys and ureters, in the bile ducts;
  • weight loss, pain and other symptoms indicating possible diseases of the organs of this zone;
  • signs of any pathologies detected as a result of radiography, ultrasound, and so on, requiring clarification;
  • ambiguous or doubtful results of other studies;
  • if there are contraindications to MRI;
  • liver enlargement (of non-obvious origin);
  • symptoms of obstructive jaundice;
  • evaluation of the effectiveness of cancer treatment;
  • thrombosis, aneurysms, ruptures and deformations of blood vessels.

It is also advisable to conduct computed tomography in preparation for surgery, because. A study with contrasting reveals the features of the blood supply to the organ and allows you to plan the access and the volume of the operation.

Magnetic tomography will give better results in the following cases:

  • suspicion of oncology;
  • the size and structure of the abdominal organs: spleen and liver, gallbladder and pancreas, adrenal glands and kidneys, biliary tract, lymph nodes;
  • metastases;
  • inflammatory, degenerative, obstructive and cystic processes;
  • circulatory disorders, organ infarctions;
  • congenital anomalies in the structure of the abdominal organs;
  • malignant or benign neoplasms;
  • thrombosis, aneurysms, ruptures and deformations of large vessels;
  • stones and pathological changes in the biliary tract and gallbladder

What to choose for examination of the abdominal cavity – MRI or CT?

Only your doctor can answer this question. Only having a complete picture of the disease in his hands, he can determine the need for certain procedures. And after consultation with a specialist, you can sign up for an MRI or CT scan of the abdominal cavity in our medical centers.

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