10 Crucial Differences between X-Ray and MRI (With Table)

X-Ray and MRI are medical equipment meant for capturing images in the body. The medical doctor uses these gadgets to help in determining the source of complicated health problems.

But the physician will also use medical history, blood tests, and physical examinations to evaluate the health condition. 

Medical imaging is crucial when evaluating and understanding the root cause of illness or pain in the body. X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, and computed tomography are involved. 

So, what is the main difference between X-ray and MRI? The former uses radiations to scan the body whereas the latter uses radioactive waves and magnetic fields. 

Both X-ray and MRI are image testing contacted by doctors on a patient according to the state of the patient at that particular time. These tools are used for different purposes.

This article provides detailed insights into the differences between X-ray and MRI. Take the time to read through and learn more about their side effects on the body. 

You May Also Enjoy: Difference between HCPCS and CPT

Comparison Table (X-Ray vs MRI)

Basic Terms




Expose the body to dangerous ionizing radiation.

No exposure to ionizing radiations.


Radiations to scan the body.

Radioactive waves and magnetic fields.

Clarity of Information

Not clear for lesser tissues.

Clearer for all tissues.

Image Dimension




Take short time.

Take more time.


Check fractures, tumors, osteoporosis, and degeneration of bones.

Provide detailed information about the ligaments, blood vessels, bones, disc, and cartilage


Tough tissues.

Soft tissues.


Less versatile

More versatile

Pregnant Women

Possess a lot of side effects.

No side effects.


Less expensive

Too expensive

What Is X-Ray?

X-ray is a sophisticated body scan that is widely used in many hospitals due to its availability. They produce radiations that pass through the body, bone, and other objects to reveal any problem.

An X-ray film is normally whitish and it tends to display less dense tissue in grey color. These tissues in the body are hard to see from an x-ray film sometimes.

The x-rays are not harmful to an individual but they are limited. Many doctors tend to take precautions in the case of a pregnant mother.

The body is usually positioned between photographic film and an X-ray machine. The patient needs to stay still as the machine sends radiation through the body.

The most common conditions in the body that need X-ray services are tumors, fractures, bone regeneration, and infections.

What Is MRI?

MRI is a diagnostic imaging testing tool that uses both the magnetic field and radioactive waves to form a detailed cross-section of the body image.

The procedure is only applied in the region of the body that needs some examination. The radioactive waves and magnetic fields cause the fat and water molecules to resonate in the bones or tissue to result in a computer-generated image.

A clear image of lesser tissues like ligaments, bones, blood vessels, disc, and cartilage is produced when using an MRI body scan.

The process normally takes about 90 minutes and the patient is given intravenous drugs that help to result in body tissues visible.

Main Differences between X-Ray and MRI 

  1. X-rays use radiations to provide a film of the body part while MRI uses both radioactive waves and magnetic fields.
  2. X-rays produce radiations that are ionizing when exposed to it for a long time while MRI does not emit any form of radiation.
  3. MRI body scan is suitable for soft tissues whereas X-rays are ideal for tough tissues like bones
  4. MRI scan provides a detailed report of soft tissues but an X-ray scan does not.
  5. X-rays provide a detailed report of bones as compared to MRI scans.
  6. MRI scan is highly versatile as compared to X-rays.
  7. MRI scan is normally too expensive while X-rays scan are affordable
  8. X-rays radiations cause birth defect in the pregnancy while MRI does not
  9. MRI examination takes a long time like 90 minutes while X-rays are a matter of seconds and you are done.

Similarities between X-Ray and MRI

  1. Both give detailed images
  2. Both use radiations
  3. Both are done in the hospital by experts 
  4. Both help to identify health problems

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Can an MRI Show that an X-ray Can’t?

Show detailed information on soft tissue injuries like torn ligaments. X-rays tend to show bone fractures only. MRI provides tend to dig deeper for less obvious injuries. 

  • Which is a More Dangerous X-ray or MRI?

X-ray is the most dangerous imaging. Radiation tends to have a negative impact on body tissues. MRI does not produce any radiation. It is considered to be the safest medical imaging procedure. 

  • Does an MRI Scan Show Nerve Damage?

MRI is quite sensitive to changes in cartilage and bone structure causing disease, injuries, or aging. Hence they have the power to detect pinched nerves, spinal tumors, herniated discs, spinal cord compression, and fractures.

  • Is MRI More Expensive than an X-ray?

MRI is more expensive than an x-ray. Medical image scanning takes a lot of time but provides a piece of comprehensive information about a health problem. 

You May Also Like:


X-ray and MRI are crucial terms highly used in medical offices. These two body scan tools perform different tasks meant for different purposes.

However, they are key imaging tests that often happen in hospitals across the world and it is good to learn about their differences.

Hope the guide was useful and helpful. Use the comment section below and share with us your views regarding the two body scans.

More Sources and References

  1. X-ray and MRI Facts:  Lincoln Orthopaedic Center 
  2. Dangers of Medical Imaging. Doctors Imaging
  3. MRI for Cancer. American Cancer Society 

Leave a Comment