| On 2 years ago

What is diagnostic medical imaging?

By Concierge at AffordableScan | 4 min read

What is diagnostic medical imaging?

Medical imaging is a term that is used to refer to several different imaging technologies that radiologist use to view the human body in order to diagnose, monitor, or treat medical conditions. Each type of medical imaging technology such as MRI scan, CT scan, Ultrasound scan, Mammogram scan or X-ray gives different information about the body part being studied studied, related to possible disease, injury, or the effectiveness of medical treatment.

What are the types of medical imaging equipment?

  • MRI scan – Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a type of medical imaging procedure for making images of the internal structures of the body, it performs especially well for skeletal issues and doctors generally prefer it to CT scan as it does not expose body to damaging x-ray waves. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to make images.
  • CT scan – Computed tomography (CT), sometimes also called or “computed axial tomography” (CAT), is a noninvasive medical examination or procedure that uses specialized X-ray equipment to produce cross-sectional images of the body. Think of it as an x-ray that takes 64 or more slices of images at a single point of time instead of just one.
  • Pet/CT scan – Positron emission tomography (PET) uses small amounts of radioactive materials called radiotracers or radiopharmaceuticals, a special camera and a computer to evaluate organ and tissue functions. By identifying changes at the cellular level, PET may detect the early onset of disease before other imaging tests can. It’s generally more expensive than the other types of scans.
    Ultrasound scan – Ultrasound imaging (sonography) uses high-frequency sound waves to view inside the body. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can also show movement of the body’s internal organs as well as blood flowing through the blood vessels and can be also used to diagnose pregnancies.
    Mammogram scan – Mammography is a unique type imaging that uses x-rays to capture images (mammograms) of the breasts tissue. Quality mammography can help detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages; when it is too small to be felt or detected by any other method.
  • X-ray scan – An x-ray scan, also called radiography, is a diagnostic imaging technique that produces images of bones, providing clear detail of the bony structure.

Not sure where to start?

Our concierge will help you find the most affordable imaging center

Why my doctor uses term medical imaging modalities?

Modality is the term used in radiology to refer to one form of imaging e.g. CT scanning. It is often used in the plural form, e.g. various modalities can be employed to evaluate this liver lesion.

More generally, in clinical medicine, the term modality is used for different types of procedures and therapies, e.g. modalities of treatment for cancer include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.

Medical imaging costs in my area – find out how to save money

Imaging scan costs vary by facility & location.  For 40% of high-deductible patients insurance no longer covers imaging modalities such as MRI scan cost until they reach their $6,000 to $18,000 deductible. Patients are expected to pay out of pocket between $700 – $6,000 for a single MRI. It’s essential that you do your research first before going to the closest facility you were directed by your doctor.

Imaging scan costs by procedure type

Find out the average prices for most frequent imaging procedures:

CPT CodeMRI procedurePriceDirect Pay PriceAverage (Estimated) Total
70552MRI Brain w/ Contrast$847$1,100$1,692
70553MRI Brain w/o & w/ Contrast$1,027$1,335$2,054
70551MRI Brain w/o Contrast$664$863$1,328
72149MRI Lumbar Spine w/ Contrast$846$1,100$1,692
72158MRI Lumbar Spine w/o & w/ Contrast$1,033$1,342$2,065
72148MRI Lumbar Spine w/o Contrast$664$863$1,328
72142MRI Spine Cervical w/ Contrast$1,960$2,547$3,919
72156MRI Spine Cervical w/o & w Contrast$1,033$1,342$2,065
72141MRI Spine Cervical w/o Contrast$664$863$1,328
74182MRI Abd w/ Contrast$846$1,100$1,692
74183MRI Abd w/o & w/ Contrast$1,033$1,342$2,065
74181MRI Abd w/o Contrast$664$863$1,328

Medical Imaging cost by region

Location matters: save money by going for an MRI/CTs to larger cities

The pricing is generally tied to supply & demand market economics. The more outpatient facilities are there in the market, the higher is the competition. And as a result, the imaging centers are more willing to compete on price for MRI scan to win patients. Generally, large cities with a lot of competing hospitals and outpatient clinics tend to be more affordable.

We tend to see the best prices in the Los Angeles region, Miami region and other large cities. Generally, the more facilities are in an area, the higher is the likelihood that they will compete for patients on price and service quality.

Most Affordable Cities for MRI scan near you:

  • MRI scan price in California: $225-700 – LA suburbia with most MRI clinics
  • The cost of an MRI scan in Illinois: $350 – $800 –  Offers both affordable & expensive locations
  • MRI scan cost in Arizona: $350 – 693 – Great choice of MRI imaging centers

How to save money on Imaging Modalities near you:

Pay in cash and save thousands on MRI fees

The great news is that with a standalone clinic you can always negotiate a better rate if you pay in cash. The imaging center saves on billing costs and removes the hassle of dealing with insurance companies, so they can provide you with large discounts. You can pay as little as $225 for an MRI scan without contrast. Which means you will save 80% vs. the sticker price.

Outpatient facilities have more affordable MRI costs than hospitals

Hospitals directly refer their patients to their imaging facilities, so they are not directly motivated to provide affordable service. Especially research hospitals such as UCSF or Stanford are among the most expensive in the country. For instance, 2 years ago Stanford charged a patient $25,000+ for a single MRI.

Tip for insured patients – Don’t get stuck in in-network/out of network loopholes

If you happen to go to an out-of-network imaging center, you can be charged a large bill. In the edge cases, one patient had to pay  $25,000+ for his daughter’s scan. Make sure that not only the imaging facility is in-network, but also the radiologist who will be reading the scan. Otherwise, you can be still charged the full cost.

In case you use your insurance for an MRI scan and it gets disapproved, you will be charged the full sticker price. Surprisingly, due to a legal agreement between insurance and facility, you won’t be able to negotiate. Therefore many patients prefer to pay for an MRI scan in cash.

Reading of MRI scans

My health insurance denied my MRI, what can I do?

The good news is that you can still do the magnetic resonance imaging procedure if you pay for it in cash. Instead of waiting 3-4 weeks, you can reach out to our AffordableScan concierge to help you schedule your appointment.

The usual MRI pricing ranges between $225-600 fee. This fee includes the radiologist reading and CD of the scan. Generally, we place most patients in a day or a week and you can expect the results within the next 2 business days.

Tips for getting an affordable MRI scan

  • Shop around for the best price (see the facilities in your area)
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for discounts
  • Ask about all the fees for your body part MRI. Do they include the cost of MRI, cost of the radiologist reading?
  • Take your doctor’s referral with you to another facility. Your referral might be issued to one of the most expensive hospitals in the country

Not sure where to start?

Our concierge will help you find the most affordable imaging center
Concierge at AffordableScan | 4 min read

The concierge team at AffordableScan works with top experts & doctors in the industry to publish the latest research & news on medical care in the US.