There’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking story by Gina Kolata in The Times about overuse of M.R.I. tests and resulting misdiagnosis and mistreatment. Read it, every word.
She quotes one doctor as saying: “An M.R.I. is unlike any other imaging tool we use. ,It is a very sensitive tool, but it is not very specific. That’s the problem.” Another says: “It is very rare for an M.R.I. to come back with the words ‘normal study. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen it.”
A third doctor, seeking to quantify the overuse of M.R.I. testing, scanned the shoulders of 31 healthy baseball players. The scans “found abnormal shoulder cartilage in 90 percent of them and abnormal rotator cuff tendons in 87 percent,” Kolata writes, adding that the doctor said: “If you want an excuse to operate on a pitcher’s throwing shoulder, just get an M.R.I.”
“The price, which medical facilities are reluctant to reveal, depends on where the scan is done and what is being scanned,” she writes. “One academic medical center charges $1,721 for an M.R.I. of the knee to look for a torn ligament. The doctor who interprets the scan gets $244. Doctors who own their own M.R.I. machines — and many do — can pocket both fees. Insurers pay less than the charges — an average of $150 to the doctor and $960 to the facility.”
We asked providers “How much does an M.R.I. cost?” Our lists of prices found that the lower-back M.R.I. could range from $350 to $2,300.