Prices for Noncontrast CT Vary Considerably

April 30, 2015

The cost for noncontrast CT scans varies quite a bit, but information on pricing is usually easily to obtain.

The prices for noncontrast head CT scans vary considerably among both academic institutions and private practices, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital sought to determine price transparency in common imaging examinations among upper-tier academic hospitals and private radiology practices. They chose to focus on noncontrast head CT because it represents a standard imaging examination with minimal differences in quality.

The researchers included 18 academic hospitals identified by the U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals rankings (2013-2014) and 14 of the top 100 largest private radiology practices as identified by Radiology Business Journal. They were located in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas.

Each facility and practice was contacted by phone to determine the cash price for a noncontrast head CT. Fourteen of the upper-tier academic hospitals (78%) and 11 private practices (79%) were able to provide the requested information. The remaining facilities and practices could not be reached despite five phone calls by the researchers.

“There was no significant difference between the proportion of upper-tier academic hospitals and private practices that were able to provide prices for a noncontrast head CT,” the authors wrote. The average total price for the upper-tier academic hospitals was $1,390.12 ± $686.13, with the price ranging from $391.62 to $2,015. The average total price for the private practices was $681.60 ± $563.58, with the total price ranging from $211 to $2,200.

The authors concluded that although there was great variability in pricing for noncontrast CT imaging, it was fairly easy to obtain this information from most upper-tier academic hospitals and from private practices.