Do you really need that MRI?

Just because an imaging test is typically done doesn’t mean it’s the best choice

Woman getting head scan

Too many tests at the doctor’s office could cost you more than just dollars. In addition to the huge hit to your wallet, there’s also the potential harm of false positives, and just because a test has traditionally been done for a condition doesn’t mean it’s the best way to treat it.

U-M neurologist Brian Callaghan, M.D., M.S., is helping lead a national push to determine what neurologic tests or services are performed more than they should be.

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The ABCs of Heart Tests

CTs, MRIs, EKGs, ECGs and More

ABCs blogMRI? CT? ECG? What are all these tests and what does it all mean? Here’s a guide to the many different heart tests your doctor may order and what they’re designed to do.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A noninvasive test that uses a magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to create detailed pictures of organs and structures inside your body. It can be used to examine your heart and blood vessels, and to identify areas of the brain affected by stroke. MRI is also sometimes called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging.

Reasons for the test:

  • Assess heart structure
  • Determine the health of the heart valves

CT scan

An X-ray imaging technique that uses a computer to produce cross-sectional images. Also referred to as cardiac computed tomography, computerized axial tomography or CAT scan, it can be used to examine the heart and blood vessels for problems. It is also used to identify the blood vessels in the brain affected by stroke.

Reasons for the test:

  • To assess the structure of the heart
  • To determine if blockages are present


Uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. This common test allows your doctor to see how your heart is beating and pumping blood. Your doctor can use the images from an echocardiogram to identify various abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves.

Reasons for the test:

  • Determine the cause of a heart murmur
  • Track heart valve disease
  • Assess the overall function of the heart

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