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July 18, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

How Much Does an Ankle MRI Cost?

In March of 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known colloquially as Obamacare, was signed into law by the President of the United States. It came into effect in 2014. Under Obamacare, the number of uninsured Americans nearly halved. However, the United States’ most significant expansion of health coverage came with one major drawback: increased deductibles.

An increased deductible, in simple terms, means that the insured would have to pay a portion of the medical bill before the insurance is applicable. Basically, you pay a deductible amount off of that bill that ranges between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

While the ACA did significantly improve the healthcare systems coverage of Americans, it also meant that the average American would have to make more informed decisions on the treatment facilities and modalities that they chose to seek for a particular ailment or condition.

How Much Does an MRI Cost?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a radiologic diagnostic modality meant to visualize the body’s internal workings. The word ‘radiology’ is often used synonymously with X-ray procedures. MRIs, unlike X-rays, do not use radiation to visualize internal systems.

The MRI scanner is somewhat similar to a CAT scanner but utilizes magnetic fields and proton alignments instead of radiation for radiological purposes. Additionally, MRIs are able to visualize soft tissues and can be used with specialized dyes for contrast imaging (MRI functioning).

This makes MRI scans significantly less hazardous, however, they’re also more technique sensitive and costly. The cost of an MRI scan in the United States ranges between $500 to $3000 based upon the state and treatment facility you’re getting one from.

Hospitals tend to charge more for MRI scans than diagnostic clinics do. Areas with more balanced ratios for people and diagnostic facilities, such as California and Texas tend to price their modalities more competitively than others.

Deductible Costs for MRI’s:

Patients who have been prescribed ankle MRIs are often wary of using their insurance benefits for radiological purposes. Under Obamacare, their monthly premiums are low, but their deductibles are significant enough for them to consider various options.

Between choosing to have an MRI done at a hospital, at a standalone clinic, and a freestanding imaging center, patients often chose to go to the latter most. These centers accommodate both insured and uninsured patients as well as those who elect to pay out of pocket.

Freestanding clinics are more cost-effective and hassle-free. Insured and uninsured patients are able to save money as well as receive their MRIs within the shortest span of time.

When Should You Get an Ankle MRI?

Reports estimate that around 25,000 people sprain their ankles each day in the United States with over half of these incidents being a result of athletic activities. Around a million emergency room visits are made each year for ankle injuries with 10% of these injuries being significantly debilitating.

Suffice to say that your ankle is more injury-prone than several other body parts. Twisting injuries during athletic activities are often significant enough to cause a sprain in your ankle’s supporting ligaments. Most of these injuries are minor; with some inflammation (usually mild) and minimal pain.

These injuries are often referred to as ‘self-limiting.’ Basically, your ankle heals on its own accord. You do not need a treatment modality or a diagnostic one to heal a sprained ankle. However, if the inflammation and the swelling don’t subside within a reasonable amount of time (a week or two), it causes serious concerns for the patient.

Ice, rest, and rehabilitation are often sufficient enough to treat a sprained or painful knee. However, if they aren’t working within a reasonable time frame, you might need to consult your primary care physician.

Common Ankle Injuries

Weak Joints:

Ankle instability refers to a condition characterized by weak or loose joints that are susceptible to turning. The underlying reason is most probably ligament damage.

Unclear X-rays:

X-rays are not as clear and precise as MRI’s, especially not for soft tissue and tendon injuries. Unless a fracture is clearly indicated in an X-ray, there’s a significant chance of a negative report being established.

If your pain persists even after your doctor has prescribed a treatment plan, contact them again for an MRI scan.

Swollen Ankle:

Swelling is often a manifestation of inflammation and commonly treated as something brought on by inflammation. However, a swollen ankle can be indicative of an infection, a tumor, or any other pathology that might require an MRI scan.

Constant Bleeding:

If an injury fails to heal within a reasonable time frame and if the site of the injury is constantly bleeding, your physician might request an MRI.

Getting an MRI Done

MRIs are radiological tools often employed to examine underlying pathologies much more clearly and with fewer hazards compared to X-rays. Your physician can request an MRI scan for your ankle if it does not heal within a normal time period.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and a healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.