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Radiology/collarbone imaging


I am curious about the difference in imaging approaches to the collarbone vs the hip and knee.

I have had a lot of ortho stuff this year (long story omitted.)  In the case of the hip (stress fracture)  and knees (torn menisci), the x-rays were useless and the problems were found by MRIs.

The doctors are dealing with the collarbone (unknown problem, possibly stress from compensating for other joints' problems) differently for some reason.  They did an x-ray and then some special type of ultrasound, and the reports suggested a catscan be done.

I am curious as to why a catscan vs. an MRI, and why an ultrasound?  The collarbone seems to be being treated differently from the other joints.

Hello, Trudy.

Each imaging modality has its strengths and weaknesses. X-ray and CT are best to image bony injuries. MRI is best for soft tissue and cartilaginous injuries and ultrasound is also good for soft tissue.

X-ray and CT are created by using ionizing radiation, which does damage organic tissue. MRI and ultrasound use non-ionizing radiation, which does not damage organic tissue.

X-ray and CT exams are usually less expensive and take less time than either MRI or ultrasound.

When a physician orders an imaging exam, (s)he orders the most appropriate imaging modality to best demonstrate the suspected disease and/or injury. Knowledge gained from one type of imaging may indicate that another imaging modality is necessary for a more accurate diagnosis.

Hope this helps,


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Delia White


I am not qualified to interpret diagnostic imaging or to diagnose disease. Please consult a physician for that information. I am the photographer. I can tell you what to expect during most MRI, CT and X-ray procedures.


I now have more than 30 years experience in diagnostic imaging. My specialty is MRI. I am also very familiar with CT and the way we used to take x-rays (everything's digital now)!

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Technology.

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