MRI, CT scans, X-Ray & Ultrasound explained by Lucy McPhate

Your physio, or health professional may recommend an imaging technique to assist with the diagnosis of a health condition. A brief description of each is included below. It is important to note that imaging is often not required for management of musculoskeletal injuries, and is only ever one part of the diagnostic process. This means it should never be a substitute for the clinical assessment (a thorough interview and examination) from your healthcare professional.



What:                         Passing of X-rays through a body area, to create a simple image.

What structures?    Bony structures, fractures, malignancy.

Some Pros:               Cheap, quick, involves a small amount of radiation.

Some Cons:               Does not adequately image soft tissue structures e.g. muscles, tendons.


CT (Computer Tomography or CAT scans)

What:                         Passing of multiple X-rays through a body area to create an in depth image.

What structures?    Bony structures, brain, some organs.

Some Pros:               Relatively cheap and quick (e.g. 10 mins) , better image than X-ray.

Some Cons:               Exposes of patient to a lot of radiation, so can only be used infrequently when absolutely indicated.


MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

What:                         Using radio waves and a magnetic field through a body area to create an indepth image.

What structures?    Muscle, tendons, nerves, brain.

Some Pros:               Creates an excellent picture, no radiation exposure.

Some Cons:              Takes a longer time (e.g. up to 40 mins), expensive, may not be accessible to people in the country.



What:                          Passing of sound waves through a body area to create an image.

What structures?    Tendons, guided injections e.g. cortisol, cyst drainage.

Some Pros:               Cheap, no radiation.

Some Cons:              Requires a skilled operator to create a clear picture, does not image muscle or bone.


For more information about imaging, or for an explanation of the results of a scan, make an appointment with us today at InnerStrength of Bayside. Phone 8555 4099