In these CT Neck images, the soft tissues are visualized. The parotid, submandibular and sublingual salivary glands are displayed. The thyroid gland and the trachea are also seen well on neck CT. Enlarged lymph nodes in neck CT are better seen on CT rather than MRI, especially when IV contrast is used. The carotid arteries and vertebral arteries are commonly scanned in CT angiography of the neck to look for arterial stenosis or narrowing of the carotid arteries. Ultrasound is also used when assessing for carotid artery stenosis.
To view the bones of the neck for neck fracture, the term “cervical spine” is used. This term makes a distinction in how the CT Technologist scans a neck. The ordering physician must make a distinction when ordering a neck CT if bone fractures in the neck need to be seen versus scanning for any soft tissue abnormalities.
So there is a difference in the way the images will look based on what needs to be seen. If the bones need to be seen for any fracture, the CT Technologist will know how to produce images that show only the bones of the neck.
If the veins, arteries or other soft tissues structures are of interest, the CT Technologist will know how to produce images that show only those structures.
CT neck scanning is superior to MRI when looking for neck fractures of the vertebrae themselves.
There are clear reasons why the benefits of CT vs MRI can complement each other: MRI is superior over CT when the need to see the spinal cord is necessary. This is often the case when CT and MRI will both be used in many situations for assessing neck injury: CT for bone fractures and MRI for spinal cord injury. Both are used and both are needed.