How Much Does a Spect Scan Cost?

Written by: Staff

SPECT, which stands for single photon emission computed tomography, is a nuclear medicine procedure used to study the heart, liver, bones, thyroid and/or brain.  This scan is designed to offer a doctor information about the blood flow and activity patterns inside the brain, allowing them to observe which area of the brain is working well and which parts may be over or underactive.

This test could be ordered by a doctor if he or she suspects a seizure, a stroke, dementia, suicidal behavior or they simply want to evaluate head trauma or related conditions.

How much does a SPECT scan cost?

On average, the entire procedure can cost close to $4,000 without any insurance.  According to this article, Amen, a psychiatrist, is said to charge $3,500 to take pictures of the brain using this scan in order to aid the diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions such as brain trauma, ADHA, anxiety, dementia, obesity and more. had talked to a few SPECT locations and was able to find out these scans could run anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on where you live and what’s included in the test.   She noted the Mayo Clinic, Amen Clinics, Mayfield Clinic and Cedar Sanai Medical Centers offer the scan, but all, with the exception of the Amen Clinics, didn’t post their prices.

Oftentimes, this scan won’t be covered by your health insurance policy if you have one, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check with your provider.  It doesn’t hurt to call and even get a preauthorization if your company were to cover it. talked about her experience at the Amen Clinic and stated while some of her insurance did pick up the tab, they still had to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

SPECT scan overview

A SPECT scan will involve two parts:  receiving the injection, known as a tracer, and using the machine to scan a part of your body.

The first scan will be known as the concentration scan, a scan that takes up to 20 minutes to complete.  During this particular portion, it will measure your attention and focus.  Next, the baseline scan will be performed, and you will be asked to simply sit back and relax while the imaging radioisotope solution is injected inside of your veins via the small IV line that was setup before the scan even beings.  When the solution has entered the system, which can take up to 20 minutes or even hours in some rare cases, you will be taken to the scan machine, where cameras will rotate around your head, taking pictures of your organs while you lay flat.  These pictures will then be sent to a computer, where it will create 3D images.

With these results, 3-D pictures will be created, showing doctors exactly how your organs work.  For instance, a SPECT scan can show a doctor how the blood is flowing to your heart and which parts of your brain are the most active.  If any areas of cancer progression or bone healing were to show up on the scan, it will usually light up.

The entire procedure will take about 90 minutes.

What are the extra costs?

With the results, a doctor, with advanced training, will analyze the results and then send them to your doctor.  If any parts of the scan show any colors that appear to abnormal, your doctor will be able to explain the results and recommend a treatment course of action.  This can include prescriptions, a change in diet or other recommendations.

Tips to know:

Amen Clinics says the study will not offer a diagnosis; instead, it will help a doctor, as explained above, how your brain is functioning.

For the most part, a SPECT scan is safe; however, it doesn’t mean it won’t have any side effects.  As with any test, a SPECT scan can make you experience bleeding or pain where the needle was injected or, while rare, an allergic reaction to the radioactive tracer.  These scans are not safe for women who are pregnant or those who are currently breastfeeding.  Lastly, the risk of radiation should be noted as the procedure does use a small amount in order to perform the scan.

To prepare for the scan, make sure you leave any jewelry at home and bring in a list of any medications you take.

How can I save money?

Since there’s a good chance your insurance won’t cover this procedure, consider asking for a cash discount.  Some offices may offer a discount if you pay in cash up front.

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