PET Scan Vs. MRI


PET scans and MRI tests are similar in nature. Both require the patient to be moved through a cylinder shaped object while images are being recorded. The pictures provided during the test are read by radiologists. The results are forwarded to a patient’s physician for further consultation. PET scans define the function of abnormal tissues. The MRI offers structural information about the tissue.

MRI machines detect problems in the body not normally seen on x-ray.
MRI machines detect problems in the body not normally seen on x-ray. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)


Both the positron emission tomography scan (PET scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are considered body imaging tests. Each is designed to scan different areas, thus provide contrasting results.

Tech looking at scan results
Tech looking at scan results (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

PET Scan

A PET scan reveals the condition of the body’s organs and tissues performance. PET scans are able to show if cancer or heart problems exist in the body. Furthermore, the scan can reveal central nervous system issues, such as brain dysfunction or tumors.

tech and patient at PET scan
tech and patient at PET scan (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)


MRIs show the size, appearance and form of organs and muscles in the body. The test can uncover tumors and other abnormalities inside the body. They are useful in determining the exact location of an anomaly and tract changes of the same.

Doctor looking at MRI scans
Doctor looking at MRI scans (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


PET scans require an injection of a radioactive substance mix into the vein. As a result, the PET scan offers a more definitive picture of what is occurring on a cellular level than that of an MRI.

Injection into IV
Injection into IV (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)


Both tests may require an injection of substance into the vein--in the case of the PET scan, radioactive, and MRI, nonradioactive. This will be determined by your health care provider.

MRI techs with patient
MRI techs with patient (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

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