Difference between MRI and X-ray

September 28, 2015 by Editorial Team

Both MRI and X-ray are popular radiographic tests used in medicine for diagnosis of the insides of the human body. X-ray is the well-established technique that allows for looking inside the body in two dimensions, while MRI provides a much more comprehensive test. There are some substantial differences between MRI scanning and X-ray scanning. Let’s take a closer look at them.


MRI machine

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a scanning technique that is used in medicine to differentiate tissues in a pathological state from tissues in a normal state. MRI allows for the finest quality of scanning and thus helps in solving a comprehensive range of medical problems. MRI is widely used for scanning of the human brain.

X-ray machine
X-ray machine

X-ray is the older of the two techniques. X-rays are very efficient when it comes to diagnosing pathologies in the bones and in soft tissues. Diseases that are well diagnosed with the help of X-rays include lung cancer and several types of kidney stones.

Comparison chart

Takes from 10 minutes to 2 hours to make a scanTakes a few seconds to make a scan
Is applicable to a large variety of diseases and medical conditionsIs applicable for a limited number of diseases
Expensive. Costs from $1000 to $4000Affordable. Costs $ 100 on average


Let’s compare two scanning techniques in terms of speed of procedure, application and costs.

  • An MRI procedure takes a relatively long time to perform, depending on the task. It may last from 10 minutes up to 2 hours. The X-ray scan is really quick in comparison. It takes only a few seconds to perform an X-ray.
  • MRI is designed to evaluate deep-rooted diseases in the human body. Due to the excellent resulting resolution, MRI allows deep investigation into the soft tissues of the organism. MRI is a very efficient technique when it comes to such injuries as brain tumor or spinal cord injuries. By comparison, X-ray is sufficient when it is a matter of detecting broken bones. X-ray is insufficient when a deep examination of soft tissues is needed.
  • MRI remains a relatively expensive technique and may cost from $1000 to $4000 depending on the problem it is supposed to reveal. X-ray is affordable and on average the price for this procedure is $100.


You can see in this video the analysis that reveals further differences between MRI and X-ray tests: