Why is an MRI so expensive?

MRI is an accurate method for diagnosing the condition of organs and tissues. Unlike X-ray and endoscopic methods, it is safe and has the fewest contraindications. The only reason that prevents the use of MRI often is the high cost of the examination. In the article you will learn about the reasons for the high cost of the survey and how to save on it.

Why so expensive?

The main reason for the high cost is the price of equipment. It costs from 200-300 thousand dollars.

Standard MRI machines. Prices start from 25 million rubles.

It is necessary to add here the high-quality equipment of the office with computers and special software. Most manufacturers offer a year of warranty service, further costs also fall on the shoulders of the owners of the medical institution.

Legislative regulations stipulate strict requirements for MRI diagnostic rooms: a certain area, the absence of high-voltage wires, tram lines near the premises. Only the first floors are suitable for installation. All materials and instruments (for the introduction of a contrast agent, biopsy) must be made of non-magnetic materials.

What determines the price of a particular examination

  • Different tomographs – different prices. Low-floor ones are cheaper than high-floor ones. But the resolution of the latter allows you to identify dangerous diseases, so you need to be guided by the testimony.
  • The use of contrast raises the price. Diagnosis of brain tumors is carried out only with him. And if you need to assess the structure and condition of a small joint, the information content of MRI with and without contrast is approximately the same, you can not overpay.
  • Clinic location. Closer to the city center, the price is higher, since it is more expensive to rent or purchase premises.

Sophisticated technology and apparatus content

The amount of technology inside an MRI machine is amazing, and we’re not just talking about computers and scanners. The magnets are expensive, as are the cooling materials inside, such as cryogen, helium, and nitrogen. Parts inside an MRI machine are under heavy stress, often due to electrical discharges passing through them. This means they are subject to faster wear even if they look good on the outside. Keeping them up to specification means regular maintenance is required, and such specialized service comes at a cost.

Machine dimensions

MRIs are large machines, which means they require a lot of space. There is also a lot of ancillary equipment that is required for an MRI, such as recording equipment and security features built into the room. The room containing the machine, called an MRI room, can cost hundreds of thousands. Throw in patient support areas and setup costs, and it’s a one-piece package. Consider these cost factors, but that’s not all.

A small number of equipment suppliers

Only five companies make MRI machines, and each specializes in multi-magnet technology, so there is relatively little competition when it comes time for a hospital or medical center to buy a single machine. Thus, hospitals and digital imaging centers have little choice but to pay the high cost of equipment. The higher cost of machines results in high scanning costs. Used low-field MRI machines can cost anywhere from $150,000 to $1.2 million. For a state-of-the-art 3 Tesla MRI machine, the purchase price of one new one can be up to $3 million.

Energy cost

Machines come in different sizes and capacities. Their image strength is measured in units of magnetic field strength called teslas. Low field or open MRI machines measure between 0.2 and 0.3 Tesla, while the strongest currently on the market is 3 Tesla. Magnetic resonance imaging machines use magnets and radio waves to produce black-and-white images of bones and organs, usually for diagnosis. An MRI consumes a lot of energy in a short amount of time. Each scan and maintenance of such a machine requires quite a lot of electricity.

Staff work

The cost per scan varies greatly across the country for reasons not always related to the initial cost. Physicians can also charge at their discretion, and while an MRI center will likely set the rates of their staff physicians, you will be charged separately for reading a radiologist’s MRI. In addition, your doctor may ask you to do an MRI with or without contrast dye, or both. This “dye” is a paramagnetic fluid that reacts to the device’s magnet and helps to amplify certain abnormalities on the scan that would otherwise be invisible, which is common in neurological MRIs. This means that, in addition to the cost of the scan, your total MRI bill will include the cost of the radiologist, contrast dyes, and the cost of the procedure itself. Depending on the medical center, these fees may be combined into one fee. Grouping is one of the common mistakes in medical bills, so always check the detailed report before paying for any expensive medical procedure.

So the cost of an MRI might seem like a lot, but given the cost of the equipment and the experience it takes for a radiologist to read it properly, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most expensive types of medical services.

How to save

Do not resort to contrasting unnecessarily.The contrast agent allows you to see the spread of the tumor, the degree of its spread and germination in the surrounding tissues. There are cases when its use is not necessary – for example, with injuries.

Watch out for special offers. Some clinics offer discounts at night or temporary promotions when MRIs can be done at a discount of up to 20%.

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