1. Blog
  2. How much does an MRI cost?
How much does an MRI cost?
May 25, 2022|Read Time - 5 minutes
Written by
Last updated on August 22, 2023

How much does an MRI cost?

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) procedure can cost anywhere from $400 to over $12,000. Booking an MRI on Sesame guarantees you the best self-pay price on MRI appointments near you. The specific cost of an MRI usually depends on where you live and what part of the body is being scanned. Additionally, paying for MRI procedures without 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 your insurance status, the out-of-pocket price range of diagnostic imaging services can vary significantly. That’s why it’s important to understand the average cost of an MRI nationally and in your specific region to make a more informed and financially sound decision. Plus, if you’re uninsured or underinsured, you’ll likely find that prices on Sesame for imaging like MRIs are far more affordable than anywhere else. The average cost of an MRI with contrast on Sesame is $452, while the average cost of an MRI without contrast is $387.
Chart comparing lowest, average, and highest MRI prices on Sesame and nationally.

What is an MRI scan?

Magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI) is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to take high-quality pictures of soft tissue and other structures inside your body. These diagnostic tests help health care providers examine the inside of your body without requiring surgery or incisions.

MRI scanners are large magnets that create strong magnetic fields around the part of the body being imaged. The magnetic field made by an MRI machine is used to create a detailed image of the inside of your body that doctors can use to assess and diagnose your condition. In contrast to X-ray machines or computed tomography (CT scan) machines, MRIs do not use X-rays or ionizing radiation.

Some conditions an MRI scan may help detect include:

  • Brain injury
  • Cancer
  • Signs of a stroke
  • Heart Disease
  • Spinal disk problems
  • Bone and joint injuries
  • Internal organ health
  • Soft tissue inflammation

MRI is more capable of assessing bone marrow and soft tissue than X-rays or CT scans.

What are the different types of MRIs?

MRI procedures are generally split into three categories:

  • MRI with contrast
  • MRI without contrast
  • MRI with and without contrast

The MRI scan with and without contrast involves two different scans of the same part of the body - one with a contrast agent and another without the contrast agent.

Depending on the area of the body being scanned, or the purpose of the scan, your radiologist may elect to use a contrast agent to enhance the imaging. Contrast agents may be used to improve the visibility of blood vessels, tumors, inflammation, or certain organs.

Specific locations of MRI procedures include:

  • Brain MRI
  • Breast MRI
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Chest MRI
  • Pelvic MRI
  • Abdominal MRI
  • Upper Extremity (Shoulder, Arm, Wrist, or Hand) MRI
  • Lower Extremity (Hip, Leg, Ankle, or Foot) MRI

Book an MRI today

There are 3 common MRIs: with contrast, without contrast, and with and without contrast. Your referral should indicate which MRI you need. MRIs booked on Sesame cover any part of the body.

Skip carousel section: Book an MRI today
Jump to top of carousel section: Book an MRI today

What factors influence the price of an MRI?

MRI prices are usually determined by:

  • Your health insurance
  • Your location (where you live)
  • The radiology clinic performing the procedure

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.

Location: As you can see above, where you live may influence medical procedure costs (including MRI scans).

Clinic: It’s rare, but some radiology clinics may opt to perform an MRI scan as an inpatient procedure. Often, this is done when a patient is in the hospital or clinic for another medical condition- 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 an MRI scan. MRI scans performed as outpatient procedures are nearly always less expensive than an inpatient scan.

Type of MRI: MRIs with contrast are generally more expensive than MRIs 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 MRI, 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 an MRI 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, an abdominal scan costs $776, whereas a brain MRI costs upwards of $1,200. 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 under the MRI machine usually results in an uptick in cost. Before undergoing an MRI, 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.

Is MRI usually an outpatient procedure?

Yep! MRI services are completely painless and non-invasive. If you haven't been sedated, you can resume your usual activities immediately after the MRI.

How should I prepare for an MRI?

Prior to an MRI scan, a patient may be able to eat and drink normally, while taking their usual medication, unless advised otherwise. In certain cases, you may be asked not to drink water for up to four hours before the scan; in other cases, you may be asked to hydrate before receiving the contrast agent. These conditions depend on the area of the body being scanned, and the reason for scanning. During your MRI, you may be asked to disrobe and change into a hospital gown prior to your scan. Additionally, you may be asked to remove any metal objects that might interfere with the MRI scan.

These objects include:

  • Earrings
  • Bracelets
  • Necklaces
  • Rings
  • Eyeglasses
  • Certain types of athletic clothing (fabrics with Lycra or spandex often have metallic threads, which may react with the machine and cause burns)
  • Watches
  • Dentures
  • Wigs (as some wigs contain traces of metal)
  • Body piercings
  • Hearing aids
  • Underwire bras

What should I expect during my MRI?

An MRI scanner is operated by a radiologic technologist and is used for the imaging of a certain part of the body. You can speak to your technologist during the procedure via a microphone in the machine. If you have a history of claustrophobia, you may be given a sedative drug to relieve anxiety during the procedure.

Once you are in the MRI machine, a strong magnetic field is created around you or the part of the body being scanned. The procedure is completely painless. The protons in your body, or the specific area of your body, will line up in a single direction. Short bursts of radio waves will be directed at your body, or a specific area of your body, that will cause these protons to emit radio signals. These signals are then combined like pixels on a computer screen to create detailed imaging of tissue, bone, and organs inside your body.

In some cases, a contrasting agent may be injected through your veins to enhance visual details in your scan. Gadolinium is the most frequently used contrast agent for MRI scans. Side effects of gadolinium are mild but may produce a chilling effect at the injection site or a “pins and needles” feeling.

The scan can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on need, and how many images must be collected. The internal part of the magnet produces noise that can be blocked out with earplugs or music played during the procedure. Connect with doctors on Sesame to determine the MRI procedure that works best for you.

MRI services are completely painless and non-invasive. If you haven't been sedated, you can resume your usual activities immediately after the MRI.

Is MRI safe?

An MRI does not use radiation, so there is no risk of exposure to ionizing radiation during the MRI process. However, because the MRI machine is a large magnet, it cannot be used on patients who may have metallic objects in their bodies (such as shrapnel, mesh, plates, or sutures). They also may not be used on patients who have:

  • Pacemakers
  • Aneurysm clips
  • Some prosthetic devices (like some dental or eye prosthetics)
  • Implanted heart defibrillators
  • Neurostimulators
  • Cochlear implants
  • Intrauterine devices

If you have any questions about whether or not an MRI scan is right for you, talk to your radiologist or general practice physician prior to the scan.

Can I get an MRI if I'm claustrophobic?

Many radiology and imaging centers now have wide-bore/open MRI machines, which are beneficial not only to patients who may suffer from claustrophobia but also for patients who cannot fit into conventional MRI machines.

If you are claustrophobic (have a fear of enclosed spaces), you might be given a drug to help you feel less anxious and possibly a little drowsy. Most people get through the exam without any difficulty.

What is an MRI with contrast?

An MRI with contrast is an MRI that includes the use of contrast (sometimes called a "dye"), given orally or intravenously to a patient prior to the MRI. Adding contrast, also called gadolinium contrast, helps radiologists and doctors better interpret your imaging and is often used to enhance the visibility of blood vessels, tumors, inflammation, or certain organs.

What's the difference between MRIs with contrast and without contrast?

Contrast is a dye taken orally or administered intravenously that may be recommended for several reasons, often to enhance the clarity of the imaging. You should check with your referring physician if you don't know which MRI to book.

What are contrast agents?

Contrast agents are dyes used to help the clarity of scanned images. They are usually swallowed, or injected into a vein.

The most common contrast agents used by radiologists are:

  • Iodine
  • Gadolinium
  • Barium-sulfate materials

These dyes are safe but have been known to cause mild allergic reactions in some cases. Severe reactions are rare.

Tell your doctor in advance about the following:

  • Any food, dye, preservative, or drug allergies
  • Medications you are taking, including herbal supplements
  • Recent illness
  • Any medical history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or hayfever
  • History of kidney and liver problems or disease

How much does an MRI cost in my city?

Where you live may affect the specific price of imaging services. We’ve compiled a range of prices for major metropolitan areas in the United States, so you see Sesame’s MRI costs from imaging centers around the country.

STATECITYMRI without contrastMRI with contrast
ARLittle Rock575850
CASan Jose406525
San Francisco600725
San Diego375500
Los Angeles277500
Miami Beach450525
Ft. Lauderdale450525
IACouncil Bluffs600950
INFort Wayne7251,025
Kansas City475725
MOSt. Louis700750
Kansas City375475
NVLas Vegas600725
NYNew York550650
Oklahoma City575725
TXSan Antonio525675
Fort Worth475650
UTSalt Lake City650750
VAVirginia Beach625825

Related articles

See all
Why certain conditions affect you more as you age & tips for how to manage them

Managing Your Health and Wellness As You Age

Why certain conditions affect you more as you age & tips for ...

Sesame StaffApril 21, 2022
Read in 5 minutes

Struggling to find a therapist? Here are our 5 tips to find the right therapist for you.

5 Tips to Find the Right Therapist For You

Struggling to find a therapist? Here are our 5 tips to find ...

Alice Shepard, PhDApril 27, 2022
Read in 5 minutes

Questions following the changes in recent federal mask mandates? We talked to the experts.

Update: Federal Mask Mandates on Public Transportation

Questions following the changes in recent federal mask manda ...

Sesame StaffApril 21, 2022
Read more

Do prescriptions expire? Can I take old medication? Your questions answered by Sesame's Medical Director. April 15 is national Clean Out Your Medication Cabinet Day, a reminder to check the expiration dates on old medication.

Expired Medication? What You Should Know | Sesame

Do prescriptions expire? Can I take old medication? Your que ...

Sesame StaffApril 12, 2022
Read more

Sardines, collard greens, brazil nuts, and more. What you eat matters - especially as you age. Hear from a functional nutritionist on what foods impact your bone health as you age.

What Are the Best Foods to Keep Your Bones Healthy as You Age? | Sesame

Sardines, collard greens, brazil nuts, and more. What you ea ...

Sesame StaffMarch 15, 2022
Read more