How much does a CT scan cost?
A CT (computed tomography) procedure can cost anywhere from $300 to about $7000, depending on whether or not you're insured and the type of health plan that you have. The specific cost of a CT scan also usually depends on where you live, and what part of the body is being scanned. Additionally, paying for CT scans without health insurance can be more expensive than paying for one if you’re insured. Depending on the insurance company, the deductible of your insurance plan, or if you are uninsured, the out-of-pocket costs of these diagnostic imaging services can vary significantly. That’s why it’s important to understand the average cost of a CT scan nationally and in your specific region to make a more informed and financially sound decision.
National Average CT Scan Cost (without insurance): $3,275
National Range: $300-$6,750
Sesame Average: $385
Sesame Range: $213-$545
A CT scan (computed tomography scan) is a tool that doctors use to get a cross-sectional view of soft tissue, blood vessels, bones, and other structures inside your body. CT Scans take a series of x-rays of the body and use computer processing to combine them into the cross-sectional images that doctors use to diagnose conditions and develop treatment plans. CT scans are helpful in diagnosing internal injuries, treatment planning and monitoring, and disease detection. While often performed in hospitals' radiology departments, CT scans are generally outpatient procedures. This means that you can go home on the same day that you receive your scan.
CT Scans are performed with contrast and without contrast. Contrast is a dye used to enhance your imaging and is only needed in specific instances. Check with your referring physician if you're unsure which CT scan is right for you.
Unlike a stationary X-ray tube that captures images from a single angle, CT machines use motor-powered X-ray tubes that rotate around a doughnut-shaped system called a gantry. These procedures are commonly performed at a medical imaging center (like a radiology clinic) or a medical center (like a hospital or primary care clinic).
The patient having a CT scan is laid on a bed that moves through the gantry while X-ray tubes rotate around the body sending X-ray beams through the patient’s body. The rotating tubes capture image slices of specific parts of the body which are then combined by a computer to create a 3-D image of the patient. CT scanners can be used over the entire body or just a part of your body, depending on how much information the radiologist needs.
CT scan procedures are faster than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and can be used to get detailed images of the entire body. Both of these medical imaging procedures produce detailed images of the bone, tissue, and blood vessels. MRI scans use high-powered magnetic fields, whereas CT images are cross-sectional combinations of X-ray scans.
An MRI scan is a more detailed image of the inside of the body and can detect certain diseases that CT scans cannot. However, people with pacemakers, implants, or metallic structures inside their bodies may be unable to receive an MRI scan because it uses magnetic fields. This can cause interference with the imaging techniques done by an MRI scanner, or harm to the patient receiving the scan. CT scans are quick, low-risk procedures that provide detailed images of bone, tissue, and organs, and are more commonly recommended by doctors.
CT scans help health care providers assess and diagnose abnormalities in soft tissue and bone. CT scans can also detect vascular medical conditions, like coronary heart disease or blood clots.
CT scans also help doctors plan for surgeries, giving them an inside look at the structures on which they intend to operate, as well as facilitating biopsies.
Your doctor may recommend a CT scan to:
- Detect and diagnose bone and muscle disorders
- Detect tumors and blood clots
- Diagnose an internal infection
- Detect and diagnose certain cancers
- Monitor conditions such as heart disease, internal organ problems, and masses developing in the body
- Monitor the progress of cancer treatment
- Detect internal bleeding
CT scan prices are usually determined by:
- Your health insurance plan
- Your location (where you live)
- The radiology clinic performing the procedure
- The type of CT scan
- The area of the body being scanned
Insurance: If you have a high-deductible health plan, or if you are uninsured, your out-of-pocket cost for an MRI may be more expensive. Talk to your insurance provider about different types of CT scans, and if images of different body parts will cost more out-of-pocket.
Location: As you can see above, where you live may influence the average price of a CT scan.
Clinic: It’s rare, but some radiology clinics may opt to perform a CT scan as an inpatient procedure. Often, this is done when a patient is in the hospital or clinic for another medical procedure- or has required sedation for some reason. The price of an inpatient stay (meaning that you stay in the clinic overnight) may increase the overall price of a CT scan. CT scans performed as outpatient procedures are nearly always less expensive than an inpatient scan.
Type of CT Scan: CT scans with contrast are generally more expensive than scans without contrast, as evidenced by the pricing table at the bottom of this article. This is due to the cost of the contrast solution, and the materials needed to apply the agent. Not every scan requires a contrast agent, however. Before undergoing your CT scan, talk to the radiologist about whether or not you need a contrast agent. This can save you money on your imaging.
The area of the body being scanned: The cost of a CT scan is also determined by the area of the body being scanned. Different parts of the body need to be scanned for various periods of time. There is also a variance in the amount of time it takes to interpret the results of a scan. According to Healthcare’s Bluebook, a blood vessel scan costs $146, whereas a full-body scan costs upwards of $1,400. This is partially due to the need for contrast, but also because certain areas and organs in the body take longer to scan. More time being scanned usually results in an uptick in cost. Before undergoing a CT scan, talk to your radiologist about the specific requirements of the scan you need, as well as whether or not you will need a contrast agent. This can help you get a better understanding of what exactly you are paying for.
CT scans are useful in helping detect disease, diagnose disorders, or track treatment inside the body. CT scans are the most commonly recommended imaging procedures by doctors and are quicker and more affordable than magnetic resonance imaging.
During a CT scan, the patient is briefly exposed to ionizing radiation produced by X-ray beams. The amount of radiation used for a CT scan is fairly low, but frequent exposure or higher doses can lead to effects on living tissue. In some cases, this may lead to a small increase in the potential risk of cancer.
CT scans for pregnant women pose no risk of injury to the baby. However, radiologists may recommend an ultrasound or MRI exam to avoid using radiation. The low doses of radiation used for CT scans have shown little-to-no harmful effect on human tissue, but a health care provider will recommend the best imaging option for a pregnant woman based on need and urgency.
CT scans use very low doses of radiation. According to the Mayo Clinic, infrequent exposure to these low doses of radiation is unlikely to increase the risk of cancer or cause damage to human tissue or cells. Newer machines are faster and more efficient, using less radiation than was previously needed. The benefits of CT scans can be life-saving, but if you have questions about the safety of exposing yourself to low-doses of ionizing radiation, consult with a doctor about your concerns.
In some cases, your radiologist may recommend the use of iodine-based contrast agents to help enhance the imaging of a computed tomography scan. These agents are dyes that are either inserted intravenously (through an IV in the arm) or orally. If imaging is being taken of the intestinal tract, the contrast material may be administered through an enema. The contrast material blocks X-ray beams and helps to highlight blood vessels, organs, and abnormalities in tissue. In some cases, these agents can produce an allergic reaction, although these reactions are rare.
Reactions to contrast material are generally mild and usually result in a slight rash or itching. In rare cases, the contrast material can cause temporary kidney failure. If you have a history of kidney issues or abnormal kidney function, talk to your doctor before ingesting contrast materials, as they may cause further damage to the kidney. If you’ve ever had a reaction to contrast material, talk to your doctor. These materials are usually safe but can cause adverse reactions in some cases. After the scan, the contrast materials will leave the body naturally.
CT scans are usually done either at a hospital or an outpatient radiology clinic. The scanning procedure is quick (usually taking between 10-30 minutes) and painless. Newer machines may take less time than that.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, you should consult with the radiologist before your scan. While CT scans are considered harmless for unborn babies, the doctor overseeing the imaging procedure may suggest other options for imaging.
At the radiology clinic, your technologist (the specialist performing the scan) may ask you to change into a patient gown. You should remove all metal objects on your body, including jewelry, piercings, and buckles. Metal objects can interfere with imaging.
Depending on what area of your body is being imaged, you may be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours before the scan. If contrast is being used, it is recommended that you do not eat or drink anything up to three hours prior to the scan. If contrast materials are being administered through an enema, you may be asked not to eat or drink before your appointment. Medications can be taken as usual, but consult with the radiologist about eating and drinking before the scan.
If you have had a reaction to contrast materials, let your doctor know before your scan. Iodine-based contrast materials can cause allergic reactions. If you have had an allergic reaction due to contrast materials before, further reactions can be severe or life-threatening.
After your scan, you can go about your day as usual. If you were given contrast materials to help improve imaging, you may be asked to remain at the radiology clinic so you can be monitored for adverse side effects.
Where you live may affect the specific price of imaging services. We’ve compiled a list of price ranges for major metropolitan areas in the United States, so you see average the CT scan cost without insurance from imaging centers around the country.
*National Average Data Source: https://www.newchoicehealth.com/ct-scan/cost
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