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What Does an MRI Scan Do?

Well, what doesn’t it do? Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a common form of radiology that produces detailed images of the organs in the human body. With the help of radio waves and a powerful magnetic field, doctors can peer into the inner workings of the body in a way an x-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound couldn’t. When you’re inside an MRI machine, according to Mayo Clinic, its magnetic field temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms in your body. Crazy, right? 

This diagnostic procedure is painless and takes about 15-60 minutes. You’ll lay on your back on a flat, hard bed that glides in and out of a large donut-shaped tube filled with powerful magnets. It’s mighty, yet doesn’t expose you to any radiation. Completely non-invasive. It’s one of the safest procedures ever. Basically, Superman or the Beyoncé of scans. 

Picture of a person having an MRI scan

Medical Professionals use this device as a way to get a clear view of the inside of the brain, cartilage, ligaments, joints, muscles, and tendons. They also use this as a tool to diagnose and examine strokes, tumors, spinal cord injuries, aneurysms, eye problems, inner ear problems, or multiple sclerosis. More than likely, an MRI scan will be used to assess the brain and spinal cord. 

What Can I Expect Before My MRI?

Beforehand, there’s not much prep work you need to do if any. If you’re scheduled to have a pelvic or abdominal MRI, you might be asked to skip out on eating and drinking a few hours before the procedure. When there’s less movement in the gastrointestinal tract, the images produced from the scan are more clear.

Since the scan uses incredibly strong magnets, metals can heavily influence the success of the procedure in a not so good way. MRI machines are not big fans of metallic material.

At your appointment, remove all metal like:

  • Earrings
  • Necklaces
  • Bracelets
  • Glasses
  • Coins from your pocket 
  • Keys

Notify your doctor of anything that might cause problems in order to assure smooth sailing. Even some darker tattoo ink can contain metal, so you might want to make sure your doctor is aware of any tattoos. Just in case. 

You will also need to fill out a form to checklist the metals you have inside your body, too. Examples of this could be:

  • A pacemaker
  • Cochlear implants
  • A copper IUD
  • Orthodontic appliances

The chosen strength of your MRI will be affected by these factors. Or you may need to undergo an alternate procedure. Your doctor will be the judge of that, don’t stress.

If you’re pregnant or think you might be, you’ll want to tell your doctor about this, too. There’s not much concrete knowledge or understanding of the ways in which such harsh magnets can affect a fetus. If this is the case, you may be asked to postpone your MRI or consider the use of an alternate method of scanning.

So What About Contrast Dye?

Your doctor may want to use a contrasting agent—like gadolinium—before your MRI. This can especially help in diagnosing things like cancer or multiple sclerosis. The contrasting fluid lights up when you get a scan, so it makes spotting issues easier. Magic. 

Some patients complain of coldness, warmth, headaches, or nausea. In the extreme case, like all mediations and foreign substances, the risk of an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock could occur. This is rare, so take heart. The overall risk of negative side effects is no more than 2.4%, but if you’re still nervous, you can ask your doctor for other options or have him or she explain this process more fully to your comfort.

During the MRI?

Now, you’re ready to put on the gown and get this show on the road. You’ll lay down on your back, and your MRI tech will give you a headset so you can communicate during the treatment since no one is allowed in the room with you. You’ll need to stay as still as possible as the table moves in and out of the donut-shaped tube. In some cases, when one is receiving what’s called a functional MRI, you will likely be instructed to tap your thumb against your fingers to examine brain function. 

Some patients complain of feeling claustrophobic by the circular shaped tube, and anxious by all the noises the machine makes. All the bumping and whirring can be intimidating. Being in a separate room by yourself can be scary as well. Try to relax, and know that not a bit of this will be painful. Knowing what to expect before you go can help alleviate the nerves, and that’s what we’re here for! 

If claustrophobia is an issue for you, ask your doctor if an “open” MRI machine is available. Or, if there is a new roomier model that is better suited for you. If you foresee anxiety being a problem, you may be a candidate for anti-anxiety medication or sedation. Some technicians can give you a panic button to hang onto in case you need to stop the scan for any reason.


Once the scan is over, it’s a breeze. You just change back into your clothes. You did it! You don’t have to refrain from exercise or following any sort of diet. There’s nothing more for you to do. However, ask how long it will take to receive your results back if you’re anxious or curious. 

How much does an MRI Scan Cost Near Me?

The cost for an MRI scan, as for everything, will differ depending on facility and location as well as your insurance plan. And as for everything dealing with healthcare and the fight to keep transparency first, shopping for the best deal is a must-do. There are many factors and many moving parts involved in determining the cost of an MRI scan near you.

According to AffordableScan, For 40% of high-deductible patients, insurance no longer covers MRI scan costs 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.” 

MRI scan costs also vary depending on what part of the body they are scanning. It’s helpful to use an MRI cost comparison tool like ZeaMed to check real prices. MRI results will look different for a brain or a spinal scan, for example. When you get an MRI, there are two things happening here. First, you have a scan, and then a radiologist will read the scan for your results. When pricing our MRIs, make sure the cost of the scan AND the radiologist’s report is included. If you are unsure of what your chosen facility offers, call them beforehand and ask. 

Keep in mind that the pricing is usually related to supply and demand market economics. This means when there are more facilities available in one area, the competition is higher. Facilities are competing for you, and as a result, MRI scans tend to be cheaper in large cities. More providers in an area = more affordable prices. ZeaMed can help you see this more clearly via our app. Check out our app, and we can deliver these price differences for you. Easy as that.

With such a large variance in price, it’s more than necessary to research the prices and quality among caregivers before you go. The answer to this question will take many shapes and forms, so be aware that there’s no set, universal price. But, there are always ways to be ahead of the curve, and ZeaMed is your first step, and your first choice in finding just how much the cost of an MRI scan would be near you. And we firmly believe you should know this before receiving the bill, no surprises in store. 

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How much does an MRI Scan Cost with insurance?

Sometimes, your insurance would disapprove of your MRI scan. In that case, you might be charged the full sticker price. Surprisingly, many patients prefer to pay for this service in cash. You expect your insurance to have your best interest in mind, but it doesn’t always work out in your favor. 

But good news! You can actually save a large amount of money by paying upfront with cash. Surprising, isn’t it? This is just another example of how inconsistent the healthcare system really is. But, going about payment this way, you can actually negotiate to find a rate that works best for you. You can even save thousands by using this method. 

It sounds unbelievable and shocking, but the way it works is that an imaging center can save on billing costs by bypassing the processes of dealing with the insurance companies. The process of dealing with the insurance company is where things seem to go arry. Large discounts follow when no one has to deal with this setback. It’s encouraged, even. 

According to AffordableScan, “You can pay as little as $250 for an MRI scan without contrast. Which means you will save 80% vs. the sticker price.”

Where do I get an MRI Scan near me? 

The internet is your friend. Just a quick search and a list of hospitals and standalone facilities will show from your area, no matter where you live. Though the internet is your friend, ZeaMed is your best friend. We want to make this process easier for you. We already list the prices of all MRI providers in your area and can save you even more off the sticker price if you request a price discount from us. That’s right, we literally call MRI providers near you and ask for a discount on your behalf. Trust us to do this homework for you. There are endless options, but we promise to help you find the best and most affordable one.

Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts! Think of it this way: being told “no” is much better than spending more than you have to. Keep in mind that your MRI may include extra fees (remember the radiologist fee and the scanning fee??). Make sure you have a firm understanding of what sort of price you’ll be expected to pay for the whole thing. You are the patient, after all, and this is YOUR healthcare. Ask questions and be thorough. It’s your body and your bank account, and you deserve to know exactly what is going to happen, including the prices for your care. Nobody likes surprise bills.

Turn to ZeaMed for advice and helpful information for a seamless experience. Our goal is to take the confusing healthcare system and make healthcare understandable,  affordable, and people-focused. We are one step ahead of you and always behind you. 

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