I have been dealing with a dance injury for six months affecting the base of my second toe. X-rays were negative and now the doctor wants to send me for a CT scan and an MRI. I'm paying for these tests myself. If I have to choose one over the other, which one is better?

Imaging studies have unique differences. For example, CT scan can be used to look for stress fractures, especially if the bone doesn't heal. Fractures that don't heal are called nonunion.

MRIs help the doctor see if there is inflammation of the joints. The symptoms can be very much like fracture but the treatment is different.

Talk to your doctor about the need to narrow down imaging choices. Visit the radiologist's finance office. Explain your situation as a self-paying patient. Special plans can be made to help you pay off what you owe over a longer period of time.