HOW ACCURATE ARE X RAY CT SCANS AND MRI MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING SHOULD YOU GET A SECOND OPINIONYou're no spring chicken. In your efforts to prove your vim and vigor you're out jogging when you fall and hit your elbow or hurt your knee. You go to the doctor or urgent care clinic. The doctor examines you and then they do an X ray. They may also order a CT scan or an MRI of the knee or leg. After examining the X ray they tell you they don't see anything broken. Is that it? Usually not. Often X rays are sent for an over read. That is they are sent to a radiologist for a second opinion. Why? Because findings such as fractures seen on X rays can be missed. Even the more sophisticated ct scans and mri, magnetic resonance imaging can be misinterpreted or findings simply missed.
Video of MRI of the Lower Back and the Lumbar Spine Click the Arrow
MRI uses magnetic fields to get a picture of the body. CT scans and X rays use X rays. Each has it's advantages and one technique may be better at illuminating details of a particular medical problem.
Gina Kolata writes "I found out about magnetic resonance imaging tests when I injured my forefoot running. All of a sudden, halfway through a run, my foot hurt so much that I had to stop. But an M.R.I. at a local radiology center found nothing wrong"."That, of course, was what I wanted to hear. So I spent five days waiting for it to feel better, taking the anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen, using an elliptical cross-trainer, and riding my road bike with its clip less pedals that attach themselves to my bicycling shoes. By then, my foot hurt so much I had to walk on my heel. I was beginning to doubt that scan: it was hard to believe nothing was wrong".
So she went for a second opinion and had another mri. "It showed a serious stress fracture, a hairline crack in a metatarsal bone in my forefoot. It was so serious, in fact, that Dr. Kennedy warned that I risked surgery if I continued activities like cycling and the elliptical cross-trainer, which make such injuries worse".
"Magnetic resonance machines, though, vary enormously, and not just in the strength of their magnets. Even more important, radiologists say, is the quality of the imaging coils they put around the body part being scanned and the computer programs they use to control the imaging and to analyze the images. And there is a huge variability in skill among the technicians doing the scans".
"At the very least, patients should go to radiology centers accredited by the American College of Radiology. But he added that accreditation does not tell you whether your scan will be done with a machine that is several generations removed from the best available today; whether the scanning is programmed to pick up your particular problem; or whether the receiving coil that picks up signals from the magnet is sufficiently sensitive".