9 Key Differences between X-Ray and MRI with Comparison Table

What is the difference between X-ray and MRI?

There are some slight differences between X-ray and MRI when it comes to diagnostic image testing. These are some of the things doctors normally used to examine a patient before administering any form of treatment.

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.

The guide provides some of the differences associated with the two image testing. Remember both of these tests are contacted by a professional doctor.

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Differences between X-Ray and MRI

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 send 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.

Comparison Chart: X-Ray Vs MRI

X-Rays Body Scan MRI Body Scan
Uses radiation for scanning the body Uses radioactive waves and magnetic fields
The film does not produce clear information about the image of lesser tissues The film provides clear images for all the tissues on the region being scan.
Result into a 2D image Result in a 3D image
Takes show time to complete scanning Takes more time like 90 minutes
Use to check fractures, tumors, osteoporosis, and degeneration of bones Provide detailed information about the ligaments, blood vessels, bones, disc and cartilage
Radiations are hazardous to the body The waves and magnetic fields are not dangerous.
Ideal for tough tissues like bones Ideal for soft tissues
Not suitable for pregnant mother Not effect on pregnancy
Not versatile Highly versatile

Core Differences between X-Ray and MRI In Point Form 

  1. X-rays use radiations to provide a film of the body part while the 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-rays 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 on 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. The radiation tend 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 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. The medical image scanning takes a lot of time but provides a piece of comprehensive information about a health problem. 

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Comparison Video


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 

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