Ultrasound and X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging Differences

Ultrasound imaging is used to view soft issues in the body such as muscles, joints, and internal organs. These soft tissues are viewed by sending high frequency sound waves, usually 2-18 MHz, through the body. When the sound waves bounce back, a picture or video is created. High frequency sound waves provide a clearer picture, while lower sound waves allow the picture to penetrate deeper, further into the body. The most widely known use of ultrasound technology is the viewing of the fetus, though non-medical (keepsake) videos of the fetus are discouraged. Sometimes the sound waves cause the soft tissue to heat up slightly and may create air bubbles. This has not proven to be a health issue, but nonetheless, to be sure of the fetus's safety, only medical imaging is advised. Ultrasound imaging does not expose the patient to any ionizing radiation. Ultrasound technology is widely used to view body parts like the heart, bones, breasts, and bladder.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

The process of magnetic resonance imaging is two-fold. First, a magnetic field is created around the patient to align atoms in the body, then radio waves are sent in and, through their signals, a comprehensive evaluation of an area of the body can be obtained. In some cases, MRIs can create a clearer image than x-rays or ultrasound imaging. Different parts of the body have varying magnetic properties and water content. The MRI uses these variations to create a clear contrast between different soft tissues of the body, thus making a clearer picture. MRIs are used as a means to examine tumors, joints, the heart, the brain, and the liver, among other things. MRIs also do not use any ionizing radiation, but may heat the body like ultrasound imaging. Also, any internal medical devices made of metal may malfunction. Skin dyes (tattoos) may experience irritation.

X-ray Imaging

X-rays send radiation particles through the body. These particles easily pass through most soft tissues and internal organs, but not through denser objects like bones. The objects the particles do not pass through are the ones that create the picture. X-rays can be broken down into categories. General x-ray radiography is used for things such as bones and tumors. Mammography is where x-rays are used to examine the breasts. Computed Tomography (CT/CAT) x-rays are used to create 3-dimensional images of sections of the body. Fluoroscopy x-rays are used for viewing things like blood flow or fractures. Finally there is radiation therapy used on cancer patients. X-rays do carry a few health hazards, for instance there is a small chance x-rays may lead to cancer later in life. Patients also may experience cataracts or skin burns at high levels of exposure. All these risks are extremely low.