Brain MRI is a non-irradiating and non-invasive diagnostic imaging method that uses a magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to visualize the brain’s anatomy and activity and to identify possible craniocerebral disorders. The radiologist will decide if it is necessary to use the contrast substance to increase the accuracy of the diagnosis.
How Much Does a Brain MRI Cost?
Depending on the geographical location, the complexity of the problem being monitored, and the place where it is performed, either at a physician’s office or in a hospital, the average cost of a brain MRI is anywhere between $1,100 and $5,100. For instance, patients going to the Pacific Alliance Medical Center in Los Angeles will pay around $4,200 for a brain MRI, without the contrast solution. Also, at the New Hampshire hospitals, the cost of a brain MRI is anywhere between $2,900 and $5,600.
Usually, the costs of a brain MRI are covered by the health insurance companies if they are deemed medically necessary. Insured patients will have to copay for the doctor’s visit and sometimes for the MRI if the deductibles are met. For instance, you will have to copay around $25 for the doctor’s visit and almost $110 for the MRI if you have a First Carolina Care insurance plan.
Brain MRI details
Brain MRI does not require special prior preparation. However, it is advisable not to eat or drink liquids for about 2-3 hours before the examination.
Ladies are advised to remove makeup before the investigation because some cosmetics contain various metal powders that can interfere with the image.
If you suffer from various allergies, tell your doctor about this so that you do not suffer from the side effects of the contrast solution used.
Before the investigation, the nurse will ask you to remove all the metal objects because they can be quickly attracted by the strong magnet. Inform your doctor if you have any kind of metal implant (cardiac stent, pacemaker, IUD) because it may not work properly after the MRI and you can risk your life.
Cooperation is very important: you have to stay perfectly still. Relax and try to stay as still as possible. Any movement during the examination leads to a significant decrease in image quality, which can become uninterpretable.
In some cases, the doctor will communicate through the microphone and tell you to hold your breath for a few seconds. It is recommended to keep your eyes closed and to limit to a minimum the movement of the eyeballs.
On average, the brain MRI lasts 30 minutes, but the period can be extended to 60 to increase the accuracy of the images.
The examination consists of a series of sequences, each lasting between 1 and 6 minutes, with short breaks between them.
What are the extra costs?
Around 20% of patients can feel claustrophobic or anxious inside a traditional MRI machine, and for those, it is recommended they be sedated with propofol (Diprivan). This drug would cost anywhere between $130 and $420.
Some patients may need an injection of contrast dye to make their scan more thorough. It’s estimated that 5%-10% require this option. If you are one of them, be prepared to pay $110 to $320 for it.
Important things to consider
Brain MRI is performed on the advice of a specialist. It is a method used to evaluate brain structures, being useful in the evaluation and monitoring of a diverse range of pathologies:
- Tumor pathology – brain or meningeal tumors;
- Vascular pathology – stroke, arterio-congenital malformations, venous sinus thrombosis, aneurysms;
- Malformative pathology – congenital malformations of the brain, congenital malformations of the meninges;
- Degenerative pathology – epilepsy, internal hydrocephalus, cerebral atrophy;
- Pathology of the orbit, optic nerves and muscles of the eyeballs – inflammation or neuroendocrine disorders, diplopia, tumors;
- Pathology of the inner ear – inflammatory, tumor, malformation, labyrinthine lesions, vascular abnormalities;
- Pathology of the pituitary region – micro and macro-pituitary adenoma, visualization of the pituitary stem;
- Inflammatory pathology – encephalitis, meningitis, encephalopathies, leukodystrophies, multiple sclerosis;
- Brain pathology in case of systemic diseases – leukemia, lymphoma, HIV – AIDS;
- Post-traumatic pathology.
You can find an accredited health center, hospital or clinic, that performs a brain MRI, close to your location by using the search tool offered by the American College of Radiology website.
How can I save money?
Depending on the geographical location, patients that don’t have health insurance, but pay in cash or use a credit card may get a discounted price of $390 to $570 at some diagnostic imaging centers. For instance, at the MRI Solutions imaging center from Indianapolis, you will pay a flat fee of $460, regardless of the part of the body being scanned.