How Much Does an MRI Cost?

How Much Does an MRI Cost?

If you were recently told that you need an MRI, you probably asked your doctor, “how much does an MRI cost?” Reporters have investigated this question. The cost variations are massive, and MRIs are in no way affordable. A retrospective study released on 2012 showed that CT and MRI use has increased greatly in recent years, raising questions about the risks of radiation and overuse of these scans. If you do need an MRI scan, you should have a good understanding of the price of such a procedure. One good approximation of the cash cost of an MRI can be made by using outpatient data released by Medicare. Here is the average cost, as well as the U.S. outpatient centers with the most and least expensive MRIs.



 
According to these data, the average price of an MRI is $2,611.
 

The Most Expensive MRIs

Hospital name Location Cost of MRI Number of MRIs performed per year % of patients who would definitely recommend this hospital
Underwood Memorial Hospital Woodbury, NJ $13,259 19 58%
Northbay Medical Center Fairfield, CA $9,766 16 68%
Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital Whittier, CA $9,595 837 84%
Good Samaritan Hospital Of Suffern Suffern, NY $7,332 217 60%
Jennersville Regional Hospital West Grove, PA $7,258 195 62%
Watsonville Community Hospital Watsonville, CA $7,252 92 65%
Doctors Hospital Of Manteca Manteca, CA $6,968 341 72%
St. Anthony Community Hospital Warwick, NY $6,843 205 66%
Conroe Regional Medical Center Conroe, TX $6,829 242 66%
Kendall Regional Medical Center Miami, FL $6,773 191 63%

Sources: NerdWallet Health analysis. Cost data from Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Outpatient. Patient satisfaction from the Survey of Patients’ Hospital Experiences (HCAHPS).

The Least Expensive MRIs

Hospital name Location Cost of MRI Number of MRIs performed per year % of patients who would definitely recommend this hospital
Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center Bronx, NY $474 74 57%
Maine General Medical Center Augusta, NY $547 53 68%
Medina Memorial Hospital Medina, ME $564 25 68%
Bertrand Chaffee Hospital Springville, NY $578 36 68%
Eastern Niagara Hospital Lockport, NY $637 158 61%
Lancaster General Hospital Lancaster, NY $659 142 76%
Mecosta County Medical Center Big Rapids, PA $708 426 80%
Kenmore Mercy Hospital Kenmore, MI $744 55 73%
Sierra Surgery Hospital Carson City, NY $747 459 81%
Mercy Hospital Buffalo, NV $757 102 57%

Sources: NerdWallet Health analysis. Cost data from Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Outpatient. Patient satisfaction from the Survey of Patients’ Hospital Experiences (HCAHPS).

The price of your MRI will vary based on your insurance coverage and which part of the body your MRI is performed on. The data presented are average prices for all MRIs billed to Medicare by outpatient centers.
 

Your MRI questions, answered:
  • What does MRI stand for? MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging.
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  • What is an MRI? You can think of an MRI machine like a large magnet that uses radio waves to create an image of the organs and tissues in your body. MRI scans can produce 2- and 3-dimensional images and are a noninvasive way of looking at internal organs.
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  • How does an MRI work? MRI machines are typically large, tube-shaped magnets. As a patient getting an MRI, you lie inside of the tube. According to the Mayo Clinic, “When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned atoms to produce very faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images — like slices in a loaf of bread.”
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  • Are there side effects of MRI? According to the FDA, the temporary exposure to a strong magnetic field that you get from an MRI has no known harmful side effects. However, you should be aware of some safety risks. Pacemakers, artificial limbs, or other devices containing metal may heat up or malfunction during an MRI. You should have no loose metal objects, such as jewelry, on your body during the MRI, and the dye from tattoos may cause skin or eye irritation. Further, MRI contrast agents may cause an allergic reaction, and may be dangerous for patients with serious kidney disease.
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  • How do I interpret my MRI results? A trained radiologist will read your MRI. This type of imaging is complicated and you should not try to interpret your results without the insight of a professional.
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  • What is an MRI used for? MRI scans can be used to examine many parts of the body. MRIs are often used to diagnose or monitor conditions such as abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord, tumors, injuries, heart problems, disease of internal organs, and uterine abnormalities.
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  • What can an MRI show? With an MRI, it is possible to image many tissues in the body. Different tissues appear differently on scans (bone, for example, appears dark, whereas fatty tissue looks brighter), which can allow for the identification of problems such as internal bleeding or abnormalities.

 

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MRI photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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