Last Updated on December 29, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

MRI can show abdominal-pelvic, cerebral, spine, and musculoskeletal disorders more accurately than ultrasound or computed tomography, sometimes being indicated for more accurate visualization and characterization of lesions/changes visualized on radiographs, ultrasounds, or CT.

MRI is a non-radiant and non-invasive imaging method as well and can be repeated whenever the radiologist makes this recommendation.

How Much Does a Lumbar MRI Cost?

The price of a lumbar MRI is influenced by several factors such as the facility/hospital you choose, whether or not any insurance is available, the geographical location, and whether or not a contrast substance will be used.

However, you should plan on spending anywhere between $550 and more than $3,200 without insurance for a lumbar spine MRI. Though, these expenses should be covered if you are under a health insurance plan. Make sure you ask your health insurance provider about what will your policy cover.

In the table below you will find the average costs (without insurance) of a lumbar MRI charged by hospitals and freestanding centers from some states in the US.

Geographical Location Price Quoted
Virginia $2,400
Tennessee $1,900
Ohio $1,550
North Carolina $650
New York $1,750
New Jersey $750
Michigan $1,250
Maine $1,350
Iowa $1,600
Indiana $800
Georgia $1,650
Florida $2,300
Connecticut $1,550
California $2,400

Note: These estimates will not include any contrast substance or insurance.

According to the Healthcare Bluebook the average cost of a lumbar MRI, without contrast, would be anywhere between $550 and $1,700.

From the Spine Health online forum, we found out that a member had to pay around $3,250 for the MRI and another $850 for the contrast, while another one had to pay only $900. Members who had health insurance paid anywhere between $350 and $950.

Lumbar MRI details

The investigation is non-invasive and painless. You will be placed in a cylindrical tube and be imaged by the radiology assistant. You may experience a slight feeling of warmth, but you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all. There are few cases in which patients will feel discomfort caused by the contrast substance or the fact that they are in an enclosed space.

On average, spinal MRI lasts 30 minutes, but the period can be extended to 60 minutes if a radiologist considers a thorough analysis or decides to use a contrast agent 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.

You might also like our articles about the cost of an MRI in general, a brain MRI, or radiofrequency ablation.

It is very important that the patient does not move during the scan. During the test, the patient is isolated in the examination room but is monitored through a transparent window. The patient communicates with the physician or nurse operator through a microphone.

If a contrast agent is required, it will be administered to the peripheral veins of the patient’s arm.

The written result will be released in approximately 2-10 working days from the moment of the investigation. In case of emergency, the result can be delivered within 2 hours.

The patient will receive a film, CD, and medical record interpreting the results.

What are the extra costs?

Lumbar MRI CostBe prepared to pay for the initial visit to the doctor who orders the MRI as this is not included in the cost of the MRI.

Expect to pay another 30% more from the cost if you will need contrast for your lumbar MRI.

You may be prescribed a mild sedative if you have anxiety prior to the procedure or you feel claustrophobic. Expect to pay anywhere between $160 and $370 on this.

The price estimates presented above usually do not include the radiologist’s fee. Plan on spending another $110 to $220 if you need professional reading by a radiologist.

The physician may prescribe you medication based on the findings of the MRI scan and these are not included in the price of the MRI examination. Depending on the results found, you may need more treatment in the future.

Important things to consider

No special preparation is required to perform a spinal MRI examination. There is usually no need to change your diet or give up certain daily activities.

Spine MRI examination can visualize the vertebral bodies, discs, and nerves of the spine, and can diagnose conditions such as spinal canal stenosis, discopathies (disc herniation, disc protrusions), inflammation (discitis, spondylodiscitis, etc.), tumors (vertebral, medullary, canal) and postoperative complications.

Risks and contraindications

If you have any metal medical devices (pacemaker, implantable heart defibrillator, metal joint prosthesis, cochlear implants, artificial heart valves, splinters, or any metal fragment), you will not be able to perform the investigation because they may be affected because they are damaged by the strong magnet.

For pregnant women in the first trimester, an MRI examination is contraindicated, but it can be done after the pregnancy is over 3 months.

How can I save money?

Make sure you ask about the financing options and cash discounts if you don’t have health insurance. Usually, if you pay the entire sum at once you may be able to save around $500.

If you don’t know what to choose between a hospital or a freestanding facility for a lumbar MRI, always go for the second option. This way you may be able to save hundreds of dollars. Try to get as many quotes as possible before making a decision. Most of the centers are more than happy to present you a price offer over the phone, or you can find this information even on their website page.

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