Brain MRI Scan

Patient receiving brain MRI scan in MRI machine

What is a brain MRI scan?

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan uses a combination of magnets and radio waves to accurately capture internal images of the body. An MRI scan requires no surgical incision and it can be done on any part of the body. Unlike X-ray or CT scans which only take pictures of your bones, an MRI scan allows you to see all the bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and blood vessels of the body. Therefore, it is far better at finding and evaluating problems in the brain. Also, X-rays and CT scans have ionizing radiation while MRI is safe, with no harmful radiation. In general, CT of the brain is used to evaluate patients with recent trauma to exclude a skull fracture or bleed in the brain while MRI is used for almost all other reasons.

A brain MRI scan looks specifically at your brain and surrounding head area. It allows a doctor to view in detail the brain stem, bones, and tissue in the head. By inspecting the various images of the head and brain captured during the brain MRI scan, a doctor will be able to see if there are any injuries or damages which may require further attention.

An open MRI for the brain can identify a range of problems, including:

  • Tumors
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Infections
  • Causes of headaches

A brain MRI can help determine if you have a tumor, MS, infection, vascular disease, migraines, damage from a head injury, or stroke. Your doctor may order a head MRI to investigate symptoms such as dizziness, seizures, headaches, change in mental status, and blurry vision.

Brain MRI with or without contrast?

Most brain MRI scans are performed without contrast to screen for tumors, strokes, MS, and other abnormalities. In certain situations, such as suspected infection or known cancer, an MRI exam with contrast may be necessary. In a brain MRI with contrast, a fluid (contrast agent) is injected into the patient to show more clearly areas with specific issues such as tumors, infection, or inflammation. The contrast agent is injected into a vein in the arm and quickly circulates throughout the body, enhancing any area with an abnormal blood supply in the MRI images.

Though very rare, patients can be allergic to the contrast liquid so it should only be administered if indicated clinically be a doctor. Adding contrast to an MRI scan significantly increases the cost so we always suggest checking with your doctor if it is absolutely necessary.

At First Look MRI we only perform brain MRI scans without contrast. If you require a scan with contrast feel free to get in touch and we’d be happy to recommend a trusted facility that can provide this service.

How much Does a brain MRI cost?

The average cost of a brain MRI scan in Atlanta is typically around $2600, however, the price will depend greatly on your insurance, hospital, and location.

Besides your insurance provider and location, one of the main factors influencing cost will be your insurance deductible. Often insurance deductibles for an MRI scan will be much higher than what you would pay to book one outright. We suggest you do some research and inquire what your deductible would be before making a decision whether to go through your insurance or book a self-pay MRI scan.

At First Look MRI discounts are available for multiple scans, screening packages, and public servants. For more information see our pricing page.

National average
brain MRI cost


Brain MRI at
First Look MRI


MRI with insurance

If you have an insurance plan with a high deductible, your brain MRI scan can easily cost you between $1,000 and $2,000, with prices reaching $3000-$4000 at times. Not only are costs usually higher by going through insurance, but a doctor’s order or referral is usually required adding even more cost and delaying the process further.

Due to these high costs, long wait times, the complexity of the booking process, and the lengthy delays for MRI results, many patients prefer to pay cash for their MRI scan.

Cost of a brain MRI without insurance

Many people think that out-of-pocket or self-pay MRI scans will be very expensive so don’t consider any option besides the insurance route. What most don’t know is that the self-pay route is often a lot cheaper, quicker, and easier than expensive insurance options. For example, a brain MRI scan from First Look MRI is $499 and you can usually book for a same-day appointment. You can go from deciding you need an MRI to receiving your results in less than 24 hours.

We only provide MRI imaging services without insurance (self-pay), so the price you see is the only price you’ll pay, with no surprises or hidden costs.

I am so glad that we looked outside of the traditional hospital setting for my MRI. Going with First Look MRI saved me 50% on my MRI and I got my results within an hour (and they were sent directly to my doctor within that time frame as well)! I truly can not recommend this place enough. The staff were all friendly and accommodating. The MRI Tech made the experience relaxing and calm. This place was SO MUCH better than what I have experienced with medical procedures in the past. I would definitely go back and recommend others to do the same!

Rebecca Stiles

Rebecca Stiles

3 weeks ago

First Look MRI was fantastic! I had been waiting for about a week for my doctor's office to call me to make an appointment to get an MRI on my lower back when I heard about First Look MRI! I went online and made an appointment for the next day! Chris and Jennifer were absolutely amazing! I was a little late (but I called to let them know) and they were so patient and kind to me! Jennifer made sure I was comfortable and played really good music! Chris was so sweet and helpful! I got the results from the doctor within 2 hours! I believe it is definitely worth the money! I HIGHLY recommend First Look MRI and will be back if I ever need another MRI (but hopefully I won't)!

Erica Goggans

Erica Goggans

1 month ago

Brain MRI results and video report

The first question most people ask is, "how long does it take to get results from my brain MRI scan?" You'll want to receive your results as quickly as possible to present them to your doctor and we’ve got you covered. First Look MRI delivers reports via secure email within 24 hours, and in less than 90 minutes with our STAT option.

Included with every exam is a written report for your doctor. If you order the Premium Service, a video report in simple-to-understand terms will be emailed along with the written report so you can know right away if something requires further attention.

Your MRI video report

With your First Look Video Report™ you will get detailed findings of your brain MRI scan explained in simple, non-technical terms so that you, the patient, can understand any possible issues and take control of the next steps. You will be able to decide if you want to pursue further medical diagnosis or treatment and have a good idea of the cause of any pain or symptoms.

By not billing insurance providers First Look MRI is free to innovate and our MRI scan video report is a great example of how we want to change the medical services world by giving more power to our patients.

Watch a sample of our
personalized video reports

Brain MRI scan procedure

Below is a brief explanation of what to expect during your brain MRI scan:

Before the scan

You may eat or drink anything you like before your brain MRI scan as it will not affect the results in any way.

If you are claustrophobic or experience pain when lying on your back for more than 30 minutes, you can ask your doctor to prescribe you pain or relaxation medication.

Before you enter the room for your brain MRI exam you’ll need to remove all items from your pockets as well as any metallic objects you may have on you. This can include shoes, belt buckles, jewelry, dentures, bras with metallic clips, or clothing with zippers. MRI machines use extremely strong magnets so all metal objects are forbidden. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown if you are wearing clothing with metal zippers, rivets, or buttons. We provide a locker in which you can store your clothing and valuables while you’re inside the scanner.

During the scan

During the brain MRI scan, the scanning table will slide your entire body into the magnet head first. You will be asked to lay very still on the scanning table with arms at your side. Coils (special devices that capture the signal needed to create the images of the specific body part) will be placed around your head.

During the brain MRI scan you will not feel anything but will hear intermittent humming, thumping, clicking, and knocking sounds.

The MRI exam takes approximately 30-45 minutes and the technologist will always be able to see and hear you throughout. If you experience any discomfort or prefer to pause/cancel the scan you will be able to communicate this easily and it will be done immediately.

After the scan

When the scan is complete you can resume your normal activities and even drive home, provided you haven’t taken any relaxation or pain medication. If you have taken relaxation medication you will need someone to drive you home.

Your MRI results, along with your video report, will be emailed to you and to your doctor (if you have requested we do so), within 24 hours.

We always welcome patients who want to visit any of our locations before booking a scan to see if they feel comfortable with the space inside the machine. Please feel free to drop in anytime or give us a call to see the machine yourself and we’ll be happy to let you test it.

Reading a Brain MRI

Dr. Brian Gay provides an easy to understand explanation of how to read a brain MRI.