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CostHelper > Health & Personal Care  > Tests, X-Rays & Imaging > Virtual Colonoscopy

Virtual Colonoscopy Cost

How Much Does a Virtual Colonoscopy Cost?

average costWith Health Insurance: Copay + 10%-50% of Procedure Costhigh costWithout Health Insurance: $750-$5,000+
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A virtual colonoscopy uses an MRI or CT scan and computer imaging to visualize the lower digestive tract in 3-D. Unlike a traditional colonoscopy, it allows the doctor to view various angles; however, it cannot spot very small polyps, and a doctor cannot remove a polyp or take a tissue sample for biopsy during the exam. So, a traditional colonoscopy might be required if problems are spotted. Risks include upset stomach and vomiting from the preparatory drugs, as well as minimal exposure to radiation.

Typical costs:

  • For patients not covered by health insurance, a virtual colonoscopy costs an average of about $2,400 including the facility fee and radiologist fee -- but can range from less than $750 to more than $5,000, depending on the location and provider, according to[1] . For example, the University of Chicago Medical Center charges about $1,060. Windsong Radiology Group in New York charges $1,900 -- or a discounted rate of $775 if payment is made in full at the time of service.
  • A virtual colonoscopy is covered by health insurance in some cases. For example, some insurers do not cover it for routine screening, but CIGNA[2] covers it for colorectal cancer screening every five years in average risk patients age 50 or older. Aetna[3] considers it medically necessary in a patient with symptoms and a known colonic obstruction or incomplete colonoscopy due to certain lesions but considers it experimental for screening or diagnosis of colorectal cancer. For patients covered by health insurance, out-of-pocket costs typically would include a doctor visit copay and coinsurance of 10% to 50% for the procedure.
Related articles: Colonoscopy, EGD

What should be included:
  • The day before the exam, the patient typically must follow a clear-liquid diet and use laxatives to empty the bowels.
  • The patient does not receive sedation or anesthesia. The provider uses a tube to inflate the colon with air, then uses either MRI or CT scan technology to capture images of the colon; computer software turns these into 3-D images that can be viewed on a monitor. The procedure takes about 20 minutes and the patient can resume normal activities right away.
  • The National Institutes of Health has an overview of a virtual colonoscopy[4] .
Additional costs:
  • A laxative will be needed to prepare the bowels before the procedure. Depending on which brand and type the doctor orders, this can cost between $5 and $40 or more.
  • Some providers offer a discount of 10%or more for payment in full at the time of service. For example, Advanced Imaging[5] in Montana offers a 10% discount for payment in full and South Sound Radiology[6] in Nebraska offers a 15% discount.
Shopping for a virtual colonoscopy:
  • A general practitioner can provide a referral to a radiologist -- a specialist with extensive training in X-ray imaging -- who could perform a virtual colonoscopy. A radiologist should be certified by the American Board of Radiology.
  • The University of Chicago Medical Center Department of Radiology has a detailed look at the benefits and drawbacks of virtual colonoscopy.
Material on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult your physician or pharmacist regarding medications or medical procedures.
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