How Much Does a Lumbar MRI Cost?
A MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is a painless, non-invasive, and safe medical examination that aids physicians in identifying and treating the medical conditions of patients. It uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to come up with a detailed three dimensional pictures of the lumbar spine, which includes the disks, bones, and almost all other internal body structure of the patient. Unlike a CAT scan or CT scan, an MRI does not use radiation.
Sometimes, an MRI is conducted to evaluate the anatomy of the lumbar spine, to serve as guide in the planning for surgery on the spine or to observe the changes in the spine after an operation. A lumbar MRI may also be used to determine the problem with the back in the first place, whether it is a slipped disc, narrowing of the spinal column, etc. The cost of a lumbar MRI is very comparable to an MRI of any other part of the body for other reasons. Because the back is such an integral part of the body, a lumbar MRI may be unavoidable in some cases.
How much does it cost?
- On average, a lumbar spine MRI is going to cost $500 to $4,000 without insurance. However, if you have a health insurance policy, it should be covered. Be sure to check with your provider to know exactly what your policy is going to be covered. Those who either want a new policy or are looking for a new one, consider browsing through hundreds of policies for free at eHealthInsurance.com.
- Wufoo lists the different costs of Lumbar Spine MRI from selected New York City area providers. Depending on whether or not contrast is used, the prices are going to be anywhere from as little as $700 to as much as $2,300. A lumbar spine MRI without contrast will usually be 30% cheaper.
- Newchoicehealth.com states that a lumbar spine MRI can cost anywhere from as little as $1,450 to as much as $6,000. Mainly, the costs vary depending on the geographical location.
What is going to be included?
- An MRI scanner is composed of a large magnet with a tunnel in the center. The patient lies down on a flat surface that is slipped into the tunnel.
- Many people have trouble with MRIs because of the nature of the machine. The patient is slid into a fairly tight tube that can cause anxiety to patients who suffer from claustrophobia. Because of the, an open MRI has become popular. With an open MRI, the patients will lie on a table and a ring will spin around the patient only in the area in need of an MRI.
- The images captured in the MRI scanner are then examined on a computer monitor, which performs millions of calculations. From the images, physicians will be able to locate the problems in the lumbar spine.
- An MRI using contrast is different from one without using contrast. Contrast is a solution that is injected into the patient to make the MRI results more clear to the doctor. The main difference between the two is simply resolution and clarity. The doctor will recommend one of these based on your symptoms and overall health condition. If he thinks the problem is in deep tissue that will be hard to see, he will probably suggest the use of contrast.
What are the extra costs?
- A MRI with contrast will cost up to 30% more than one without it.
- The radiologist’s fee is not included in the above prices.
- The cost of the MRI does not include the cost of the initial visit to the doctor who ordered the MRI.
- Based on the findings of the MRI scan, the physician may issue prescriptions, which are not included in the cost of the MRI examination itself. You may also need more treatment such as therapy or even surgery.
- Even if you have insurance, you will most likely have to pay a co-pay or deductible.
Tips to know:
- Some clinics or treatment centers use an open MRI machine with large openings to keep claustrophobic patients comfortable.
- A lumbar spine MRI is helpful in the assessment of symptoms, such as numbness, lower back pain, leg pain, tingling or weakness or issues that concern bladder and bowel control.
- Some people believe that an MRI without contrast is just as beneficial as one with contrast, and that you should therefore not subject yourself to the extra risk of getting the contrast solution injected.
- To get a MRI done with any facility, a doctor’s order will be required.
How can I save money?
- Most insurance companies cover a lumbar spine MRI, but you have to verify with your insurer to see how much it will pay for your case.
- If possible, shop around with some clinics or facilities before deciding on the provider that you trust. Many will be more than willing to give you a quote over the phone.
- For those who don’t have a health insurance policy, be sure to ask about cash discounts of financing options.