How Much Does a HIDA Scan Cost?

Last Updated on February 7, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

A HIDA scan, also known as a hepatobiliary scan, is a nuclear imaging test used to evaluate gallbladder function and bile duct flow into the small intestine. But how much does a HIDA scan cost?

The price can vary quite a bit depending on your insurance coverage, healthcare provider, and geographic location. This article will break down the typical costs associated with HIDA scans and provide tips for keeping your out-of-pocket expenses as low as possible.

How Much Does a HIDA Scan Cost?

The average cost of a HIDA scan ranges from $500 to $3,000, with most people paying somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500 out-of-pocket after insurance. However, costs can go higher or lower than this range depending on where you get the test done.

HIDA scan pricing is usually based on:

  • Type of facility – Hospital vs outpatient imaging center
  • Geographic location
  • Individual provider rates
  • Insurance coverage and deductible amount

According to Healthcarebluebook.com, the fair price of a HIDA scan ranges from $1,100 to $2,625, with an average cost of $1,775.

HIDA scans are considered diagnostic radiology tests. They involve the use of a radioactive tracer to diagnose the functionality of the gallbladder and biliary system. During the scan, the patient receives an intravenous injection of a radioisotope called HIDA.

A special camera tracks this tracer as it moves through the biliary system. Multiple images are taken over a period of up to 90 minutes.

Factors Influencing HIDA Scan Cost

There are several important factors that affect the cost of a HIDA scan, including:

  • Location of the scan – Prices are usually higher at hospitals compared to imaging centers. Hospital HIDA scan charges often start around $2,000 to $3,000 whereas independent radiology centers may charge $500 to $1,500.
  • Insurance coverage – Those with no insurance can expect to pay the full cash price. For insured patients, costs come down to the deductible amount, copays, and coinsurance. Most plans cover diagnostic scans but preauthorization may be required.
  • Geographic region – Healthcare pricing varies significantly based on location. HIDA scan costs in urban areas and the West/Northeast tend to be higher than rural and Southern regions.
  • Individual facility rates – Even within the same city, each hospital or clinic can set their own charges for HIDA scans. Shop around and compare prices.
  • Use of contrast – Some HIDA scans involve contrast dye which may incur additional fees.

Insurance Coverage and Out-of-Pocket Expenses

The amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket depends largely on your health plan’s coverage for diagnostic imaging like HIDA scans. Here’s what to expect:

  • Deductible – With high deductible plans, you pay 100% of costs until meeting the deductible. On a $2,000 deductible, a HIDA scan could cost you the full $1,000 to $3,000 price.
  • Copays – After reaching your deductible, you pay a flat copay amount. A $50 imaging copay would reduce your costs to $50-$100.
  • Coinsurance – Many plans cover 60-80% of the allowed amount after the deductible. With 30% coinsurance, you’d owe $300-$900.
  • Out-of-pocket max – All charges apply to your annual maximum. If you’ve already incurred expenses, your share of the HIDA scan cost could be lower.

Always call your insurance to check benefits and get a cost estimate before scheduling the test. Ask if preauthorization is required for coverage.

Payment Options for Uninsured or Underinsured Patients

For uninsured patients or those with high deductibles, a HIDA scan could cost $1,000 or more in cash pay. Here are some tips to manage costs:

  • Payment plans – Ask if the provider offers monthly payment arrangements to break up the total cost.
  • Medical bills assistance – Hospitals and clinics may have financial assistance programs or be able to connect you with grants or non-profit groups to help cover medical costs.
  • Healthcare sharing ministries – These non-insurance cost-sharing programs can help pay for scans for members.
  • Compare cash prices – Don’t assume the list price is fixed. Ask if they offer self-pay discounts or negotiate.
  • Apply for hospital charity care if income-eligible.

Preparing for a HIDA Scan

Hida Scan ResultsAside from the scan itself, most facilities don’t require extensive pre-appointment lab work or tests which could drive up costs further. The main steps are:

  • Fasting for 4 to 12 hours to avoid interference
  • Stopping certain medications that could impact HIDA scan results
  • Arranging for a driver after the scan is complete

In most cases, the preparation costs are minimal. But be sure your provider gives clear instructions so you don’t have to reschedule. Missed or cancelled tests incur fees.

What to Expect During and After a HIDA Scan

The HIDA scan itself takes between 45 to 90 minutes from start to finish. You’ll receive an IV injection of the radioactive tracer, then wait as images are taken over a period of up to 1.5 hours. The technician can perform multiple scans by repositioning the camera.

You might also like our articles about the cost of blood transfusions, urologist consultations, or Holter monitors.

After the test, you shouldn’t incur any additional or hidden costs as long as your provider is in-network. The radiologist will interpret the results and share them with your referring physician. You may need to schedule a follow-up to go over the findings. This office visit copay would be the only other expense to expect.

Billing and Insurance

To make the billing and payment process smoother, be sure to:

  • Get all costs confirmed in writing beforehand
  • Understand your share after insurance
  • Set up payment arrangements if needed
  • Don’t ignore medical bills – call immediately if discrepancies
  • Appeal claims if coverage is denied
  • Negotiate costs if uninsured and receive large bills

Being an informed and proactive patient can help control the overall costs of your HIDA scan. compare pricing between providers when possible. Call your insurance plan with the codes to learn exactly what is covered.

Ask questions upfront and understand the complete financial picture before committing to the test.

Final Words

While HIDA scans are critical diagnostic tests and important for detecting gallbladder disease, the procedure can come at a cost. With prices ranging anywhere from $500 to over $3,000, it pays to be prepared.

Always check your health insurance benefits. Inquire about cash pay discounts. Seek financial assistance if needed. And know you have the right to negotiate medical bills.

Understanding what to expect for pricing empowers patients to access needed care while controlling their total expenses.

Do I really need a HIDA scan?

Not everyone with gallbladder issues requires a HIDA scan. Your doctor may order a HIDA scan if symptoms, lab tests, or ultrasound results indicate a problem with the gallbladder’s function.

A HIDA scan can confirm if poor gallbladder function is causing symptoms like pain after eating fatty foods or episodes of nausea and vomiting.

If your symptoms are mild or not clearly linked to the gallbladder, your doctor may recommend trying other tests first or a trial of medications before ordering a HIDA scan. Discuss the necessity and benefits of getting a HIDA scan to determine if it’s truly warranted for your specific situation.

Can HIDA scan miss gallbladder problems?

In most cases, a HIDA scan is an accurate test for detecting gallbladder disease. However, no test is 100% perfect. It’s possible, but uncommon, for a HIDA scan to miss a significant problem with the gallbladder or biliary system.

Things that can decrease the accuracy include recent gallbladder attacks before the scan or lack of visible tracer uptake due to complete gallbladder shutdown. The scan may also miss small gallstones or structural issues not related to function.

For this reason, other imaging tests like ultrasound may be used along with a HIDA scan to get the complete picture. Let your doctor know if your symptoms don’t improve after a normal HIDA result. Additional evaluation may be needed to find the source.

How many hours is a HIDA scan?

The entire process for a HIDA scan takes a few hours from start to finish. After arrival and registration, nurses will start an IV line and prepare the radioactive tracer.

The actual image acquisition takes between 45-90 minutes. You’ll lie still on a table as a special camera detects signals from the tracer material. It takes time for the material to travel through the biliary system.

Multiple sets of images may be obtained. Total time at the imaging facility is usually 2-3 hours. However, factor in preparation like fasting and not taking certain medications that needs to occur in the hours before the start of the test.

You should also plan for someone to drive you home afterwards. So while a HIDA scan may only take an hour or so, expect the complete process to take up a large portion of your day.

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