Patient undergoing MRI scan at hospital

Can an MRI Show Injuries Missed on an X-Ray? 

Jose Orihuela, Attorney at Law  July 19, 2023

If you have recently been involved in a traumatic event, it is almost always in your best interest to see a doctor, regardless of how serious you think your injury is or even if you think you were not injured at all.  

Let’s say that you went to a hospital after your accident and the doctor ordered an X-ray to make a diagnosis. However, after receiving a diagnosis based on the results of the X-ray, you still feel discomfort or pain. This may cause you to wonder, “Did my doctor misdiagnose me?”  

If that’s the case, you might be wondering if obtaining an MRI can show injuries missed on an X-ray. Below, I will explain how an X-ray is different than an MRI and what makes an MRI one of the best diagnostic tools. At Jose Orihuela, Attorney at Law, I fight on behalf of clients who suffered injuries in accidents caused by someone else’s negligence and patients misdiagnosed by medical professionals. I have offices in Webster and Houston, Texas, but also serve South Houston, Pasadena, Santa Fe, Clear Lake, League City, Seabrook, and other parts of the state.  

The Dangers of Not Detecting a Serious Injury Early On

Not detecting a serious injury early on—commonly referred to as “delayed diagnosis”—can cause irreversible harm. If a serious injury is not detected within hours, days, or weeks after the traumatic event, symptoms can worsen over time. In fact, the longer the injury goes untreated, the less likely you are to fully recover from it.  

While every situation is unique, delayed diagnosis often constitutes a form of medical malpractice. If a doctor ignores the patient’s complaints or symptoms, fails to order the necessary diagnostic tests, or does not properly interpret the results of diagnostic tests, including X-rays and MRIs, the patient could be left in a terrible position. As a result, the patient may require additional care at an additional cost.  

When to Use X-Rays vs. MRIs

When receiving medical care after a traumatic event, you need to understand the difference between an X-ray and an MRI to know when to use these diagnostic tools:  

  • X-ray. Most people have had an X-ray at least once in their life. X-rays are often ordered by doctors after a person has been in an accident and is suspected to have suffered a fracture, broken bone, dislocation, or spinal injury. An X-ray sends electromagnetic radiation through the body to see the structure inside the patient. Areas with high calcium levels, including bones, are shown, while soft tissues appear gray or black in the images. The main benefit of an X-ray is that it is a relatively cheap and quick way for doctors to detect major issues with the bones and the spine.  

  • MRI. It often happens that a patient undergoes an X-ray exam that shows no injuries but their pain does not go away. In those cases, the doctor may order magnetic resonance imaging, which is commonly known as an MRI. Unlike X-rays, MRIs do not only show your bones, but also show your nerves, soft tissue, and even blood cells. MRIs work by passing radio waves through the entire body. As a result, MRIs allow doctors to see a complete picture in order to properly diagnose a condition.  

A study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that MRIs are more than 90% accurate. An MRI can detect an injury that was missed on an X-ray. The only problem with MRIs is that they are more expensive than X-rays, which is why many medical professionals are hesitant to order an MRI and order an X-ray instead. However, an X-ray alone may not be sufficient to help them make a proper and timely diagnosis, which may require an MRI in addition to an X-ray, resulting in additional costs.  

If your doctor made a diagnosis after performing an X-ray, but you still feel the pain or discomfort as time goes by, you might want to consult with your doctor about whether an MRI is necessary. Even better, you may want to get a second opinion from another doctor to be on the safe side.  

Rely on Compassionate Legal Help

An X-ray can miss injuries that will most likely not be missed when performing an MRI due to the higher accuracy of this diagnostic tool. As your legal counsel at Jose Orihuela, Attorney at Law, I can help you understand how to proceed with your case if your injuries were missed on an X-ray to ensure that you get appropriate compensation and rule out the possibility of medical malpractice in your case.