x ray vs ct scan
x ray vs ct scan

The main difference between X-ray and CT scan is that x-ray is used to detect bone fractures or joint dislocations while a CT scan is an advanced technique used to detect delicate soft tissues and internal organs injuries. The principle of the X-ray machine is to use light or radio waves as radiation for the detection of fractures of bone, dislocation of joints and somehow soft tissue or organ anomalies like lung infections, pneumonia etc. CT scan is said to be an advanced X-ray machine which provides a much detailed view of internal body organs and tissue anomalies.

X-ray provides a two-dimensional image while the CT scan provides a three-dimensional view of the internal body organs. X-ray is less expensive and easily available while a CT scan is a bit expensive and available only in tertiary care hospitals usually. The image of X-ray is obtained on a film and 180- degree x-ray beam is used. X-ray beam used in the CT scan is 360-degree and image can also be seen on the computer screen which is more prominent, clear and powerful.

X-ray does not provide enough detail about the internal organs. Only radio-opaque objects can be seen through x rays. While CT scan provides much detail and clear view of the internal organs and soft tissues. Radiolucent body organs are also clearly seen through a CT scan. Radiations used in the X-ray are of less intensity and thus less harmful for the body while radiations used in the CT scan are much powerful and higher in intensity and thus they are more harmful to the body. In an X-ray film, only AP or lateral view of an organ is viewed while in a CT scan, multiple cut sections and sagittal section views are printed on the film to clearly understand the pathology.

X-ray cannot be taken with contrast while a CT scan can be taken with contrast. The patient is asked to ingest a dye before the test, and then the scan is done. It is done to make the internal organs and pathologies more prominent. X-ray was invented accidentally in 1895 by Rontgen while CT scan was invented by Hounsfield and Cormack in 1972.

Comparison chart

Basis X-ray CT scan
Purpose X-ray is used to detect bone fractures and joint dislocations mainly. CT scan is used to detect internal organs and soft tissue pathologies mainly.
Image X-ray produces a two-dimensional view. CT scan produces a three-dimensional view.
Angle of radiation In X-ray, radio waves or light waves are directed at a 180-degree angle. In a CT scan, similar waves used in the X-ray, are directed and rotated at a 360-degree angle.
Kinds of objects visible Only radio-opaque objects are visible through X rays. By this technique, not only radio-opaque objects but also radiolucent soft tissues are also visualized.
Intensity of radiations The intensity of radiations is less so less harmful to the human body. The intensity of radiation is much higher, so they are very harmful to the human body.
Discovered by Rontgen discovered X-ray technique accidentally in 1895 Hounsfield and Cormack invented the CT scan technique in 1972.
Soft tissue tumors Soft tissue tumors and their extent cannot be detected by X rays. CT scan is a very useful modality to check for soft tissue tumors their extent.
Cost It is a cheap technique. It is an expensive technique.
Availability It is easily available at all types of health centers. It is only available at tertiary care hospitals and some specific centers.
Investigation of choice Investigation of choice for bone fractures and joint dislocations Investigation of choice for soft tissue injuries and tumors and organ damage.
The image is obtained on The image is obtained only on the X-ray film. The image can also be obtained on the computer, and it is more prominent, informative and clear.
Type of image Only one view of the affected part is obtained by this technique. Multiple cut sections of the images of the affected part are obtained via CT scan which provides detailed information about the pathology.

What is X-ray?

Rontgen discovered X rays in 1895 accidentally. Later on, this technique was being used for medical investigation purposes. Light waves or radio waves are used in this modality which can pass through lighter objects like air, but they cannot pass through hard and denser objects like bone. A film is placed behind the object, which image is required to obtain and X rays are directed on the object. X rays pass through the air which is lighter but they are not passed through the denser object, and thus a white shadow is printed on the film. It is the principle of the x-ray. Thus X rays are used to detect the bone fractures and joint dislocations because bones are denser and Rays cannot pass through them while these X rays pass through surrounding soft tissues which appear black on the film while bones appear white on the film.

X-ray is a cheap and noninvasive modality used to detect bone fractures and easily available at all health care facilities.

X Ray


What is a CT scan?

CT scan (Computed tomography scan) was invented by Hounsfield and Cormack in 1972.  It is also called a computed axial tomography scan (CAT scan). CT Scan machine appears as a square box with a tube inside. It is actually am an advanced type of X-ray machine. The radio waves and light waves produced through this machine are rotated on 180-degree, and a clear image of the body part which is directed is got on a computer screen. Multiple images of the cut sections of the body part are obtained to have a clear idea of the pathology.


CT scan is an expensive technology. It gives you a better idea of soft tissue pathologies and organ damage. It is the investigation of choice for the diagnosis of soft tissue tumors because it clearly shows the tumor extent and metastasis. It provides three-dimensional images of the directed body part.

CT scan

Key Differences between X-Ray and CT scan

  1. X-ray is the investigation of choice to see bone fractures and joint dislocation while the CT scan is the investigation of choice for soft tissue pathologies.
  2. X-ray provides a two-dimensional image while a CT scan provides a three-dimensional
  3. X-ray is less expensive and easily available modality while the CT scan is more expensive and available only at specific centers.
  4. The intensity of X rays is less; thus it is less harmful to the body while CT scan is more harmful to the body because its rays have a higher
  5. X rays are directed at a 180-degree angle on the body while in CT scan, rays are rotated at a 360-degree


X-ray and CT scans are diagnostic modalities. Both are commonly used. It is important to know the differences between both of them for medical students and for common people. In the above articles, we learned the clear differences between X-ray and CT scans.