How much does a brain MRI cost?
On average, a brain MRI costs $1,767 at a hospital or $787 at a freestanding imaging center. See cost estimates for facilities in your area below.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive, painless test that uses a large magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of your brain and the surrounding tissues. Brain MRIs are used to diagnose and monitor illness or injuries, so you only need one if your doctor (like a neurologist) recommends it.
On average, a brain MRI costs $1,767 at a hospital or $787 at a freestanding imaging center. Keep in mind—this is an estimate for what you and your health insurance company might pay together (combined) for the procedure, not the amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket.
Your MRI may be more or less expensive, depending on what kind of image you need and where you get it done. Below, you can use Amino to see cost estimates at hospitals and freestanding imaging centers in your area. Then, read on to learn more about what a brain MRI is and what affects the overall cost.
See cost estimates for imaging centers in your area
Use Amino (below) to see cost estimates at hospitals and freestanding imaging centers in your area. After entering your information, select a facility and scroll down to see the estimated cost of a brain MRI. For the most accurate estimate, make sure to specify your insurance.
When do you need a brain MRI?
Brain MRIs are a diagnostic tool used for a variety of reasons. Doctors often order brain MRIs to identify the cause of:
- Suspected strokes
They’re also used to monitor certain illnesses, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and brain cancer. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, see a doctor—but you may not need a brain MRI.
Where can you get a brain MRI?
You can get an MRI at two different types of facilities: a hospital imaging center or a freestanding imaging center. Hospital imaging centers are often located within the hospital building itself (or in the same area). Freestanding imaging centers are not affiliated with a hospital network, and they usually operate only during regular business hours.
Why is there a price difference between hospitals and freestanding imaging centers?
You’re probably wondering why a brain MRI costs so much more at a hospital than a freestanding imaging center. This is generally true for other types of MRIs and X-rays, too—hospital imaging tends to be more expensive.
There are a number of reasons for this, including:
Hospitals have higher overhead costs, since they’re open 24/7, employ a larger staff, and offer more healthcare services (including emergency care).
Hospitals bill differently. They often include revenue codes on their bills, which take into account the higher operating cost of the hospital itself.
The imaging equipment used may be different. MRI and X-ray machines vary in quality, cost to purchase, and cost to maintain.
If your brain MRI is not an emergency and you can choose where to go, Amino’s MRI search can show you prices in your area. But cheaper isn’t always better, so make sure to ask your doctor why they’re referring you to a specific facility—they may have valuable insight into the quality of the facility or the expertise of the radiologists who work there.
Will health insurance cover your brain MRI?
Most insurers will cover your MRI as long as it’s medically necessary. In that case, you should only be on the hook for your deductible, co-insurance, and co-pay.
If you don’t have insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket. Below are some tips to get the most for your money.
Shopping for a brain MRI
Even if your insurance does cover some or most of your MRI, you’ll likely still pay some of the cost out-of-pocket. To make sure you’re getting the most (and best) care for your money:
Ask your insurance company about your costs ahead of time, like your co-insurance, co-pay, and deductible, so you know what to expect.
Utilize your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
If it’s not an emergency, do your research and compare different imaging centers in your area. Freestanding imaging centers often have lower prices than hospitals, so make sure to ask your doctor why they’re referring you to a specific facility.
Ask the imaging center about price. This is especially important if you don’t have insurance and are paying for your MRI yourself. Some centers will offer a discount if they know you’re shouldering the cost on your own.
Check your bill to make sure you’ve been charged for the correct procedure.
Also, if you’re claustrophobic, you may need a mild sedative to stay calm during the procedure. It can cost hundreds of dollars, so make sure to include that in your budget.
The cost of a brain MRI in the US
The cost of a brain MRI can vary drastically, depending on where you go and what state you live in. We looked at the largest metro areas in the country (the ones with more than 1 million residents) and found the least and most expensive areas for freestanding and hospital imaging centers.
The least expensive cities for a brain MRI from a freestanding imaging center
- Oklahoma City, OK — $601
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA — $611
- San Diego-Carlsbad, CA — $614
- Birmingham-Hoover, AL — $616
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA — $660
- Columbus, OH — $663
- Cleveland-Elyria, OH — $670
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA — $681
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ — $693
- St. Louis, MO-IL — $698
The most expensive cities for a brain MRI from a freestanding imaging center
- Raleigh, NC — $1,285
- Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI — $1,277
- Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH — $1,077
- Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI — $1,062
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA — $1,053
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX — $1,031
- Richmond, VA — $986
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI — $974
- Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC — $950
- Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC — $949
The least expensive cities for a brain MRI from a hospital imaging center
- Birmingham-Hoover, AL — $923
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ — $1,054
- Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD — $1,065
- Pittsburgh, PA — $1,153
- Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY — $1,187
- New Orleans-Metairie, LA — $1,251
- Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD — $1,260
- Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN — $1,270
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA — $1,402
- Memphis, TN-MS-AR — $1,414
The most expensive cities for a brain MRI from a hospital imaging center
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA — $2,987
- Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT— $2,797
- Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC — $2,746
- Raleigh, NC — $2,673
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA— $2,580
- Richmond, VA — $2,307
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI — $2,243
- Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC — $2,152
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX — $2,096
- Jacksonville, FL — $2,091
Ultimately, the cost of your MRI is determined by many factors. You can use Amino’s MRI search as a guide to help you understand how much it costs in your area, what factors into the total cost, and how much you might pay out-of-pocket—but you should always check with the facility.
Why you can trust our price estimates
Amino’s network rate estimate is based on analysis and data modeling of de-identified data from millions of health insurance claims from 129 health insurance companies—including the largest insurers in the United States like UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, and more. The data comes from insurance claims dating between January 2012 and December 2016, which means we are able to show cost estimates for millions of combinations of medical procedures, facilities, insurance companies, and regions.
For more information, you can read our complete methodology here.