Spine and Spinal Cord Imaging

Answer: Thank you for contacting the Neuro Imaging Ask an Expert forum. MR imaging is known for producing very detailed images which can be highly useful in diagnosing a wide variety of problems. It is also known for a problem called claustrophobia that occurs with some people while inside the long tube needed for good quality MRI images. It is hard to predict, and can cause serious discomfort. In general open magnets are low magnetic field strength and do not produce the same quality of images as the closed magnets which are generally high field strength. There are some newer open magnets in the 1 Tesla range that would produce relatively comparable images to a 1.5 Tesla closed magnet. 3 Tesla closed magnets are the best. If a person experiencing a claustrophobic reaction can make it through the approximately 1 hour of MRI imaging via relaxation techniques or medication, the quality of the images is better because the magnets are stronger. However, the Memorial Hermann System has a few locations with open magnets, at this website. Of the two locations mentioned with open MRI, the Upper Kirby location MRIs are interpreted by our UTHealth physicians.

Answer: Thank you for contacting the Head, Neck & Spine Imaging Ask an Expert forum. For people with an internal defibrillator or pacemaker, having an MRI can be a bit risky. Your doctors will have to decide whether the MRI is medically necessary. Perhaps another imaging method would give the information needed for you to get treatment? If it is decided that an MRI is necessary, your doctors must take into consideration when your device was made (newer devices are less of a problem), how strong the MRI magnet is (usually limited to 1.5 Tesla), and whether you can tolerate the device being turned off temporarily. If an MRI is performed for you, a team of cardiac experts should be there to assist.

UT Physicians has a team of experts who can help make some of these decisions. You can request a consultation by calling 1-888-488-3627, or online.

Answer: Thank you for contacting the Head, Neck & Spine Imaging Ask an Expert Forum. We are able to do this kind of imaging, which will be interpreted by our board-certified specialists at the Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center or at LBJ Hospital. If you have the order from your doctor, you can call 713-512-6040 for Memorial Hermann Hospital, or 713-526-4243 for LBJ Hospital to schedule an appointment. If not, ask your doctor to call and get the procedure scheduled.

Answer: Thank you for contacting the Head, Neck and Spine Imaging Ask an Expert Forum. There are several ways to deal with the issue of getting an imaging test when you don’t have insurance. Specific rates cannot be given on this website, as rates change frequently and are based partly on government reimbursement rates (Medicare), and also depend on the specific type of MRI, but you can get your rates in the following ways:

  1. If you live in Harris County (Houston), you can apply for financial aid from the Harris County Hospital District at 713-566-6400 or hchdonline. The amount of aid you receive will depend on need, which you will describe in your application. Harris County medical facilities like LBJ Hospital are staffed by our UT experts, and the quality of imaging and image interpretations is at our high standards.
  2. At Memorial Hermann–Texas Medical Center, you can call 877-704-8700. They will ask you specifics about the test ordered (part of the body to be imaged, whether you will need a contrast agent during the imaging) which your doctor can give you. At this number, you can ask what the self-pay rates would be. If you are scheduled for a procedure and have no insurance, the facility will call and discuss payment options and rates before your appointment date.
  3. One more option is to look for a research study, which can occasionally offer good free care as part of the study. Start by looking on ClinicalTrials.gov. Type in the location and the type of illness or procedure you are looking for.