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What Factors Affect the Cost of a PET Scan?

By Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Updated: Feb 11, 2024

The cost of a positron emission tomography (PET) scan can vary considerably among testing facilities. There are some main factors that affect the overall cost of a PET scan, including technical fees, lab fees and FDG radiopharmaceutical fees. Patients, however, can usually save money if they compare quotes before submitting to a procedure as all three of these factors can vary among testing facilities. In addition, location of the testing facility can also impact the final cost of a PET scan. Of these main factors, there are various contributors that can impact the individual cost of the associated fees as well as the total cost.

Technical fees usually contribute the major portion of the cost associated with a PET scan. Accounting for the cost of performing the PET scan, technical fees are impacted by a number of contributors. Considering the type of scan and the type of equipment used, both are very important contributors to the cost of technical fees. Business analysis research demonstrates that there is significant cost changes associated with different models of PET scanners. Ranging from the initial cost and ongoing maintenance of the equipment at the testing facility to the required training for staff to use the equipment effectively, the utility of the equipment makes a big difference in costs that are often reflected in the charge for technical fees.

Scanning requirements themselves will also adversely impact the cost of a PET scan. For example, a scan of a small region of the body usually takes less time and resources to conduct. Therefore, such procedures are not as costly as a more extensive scan. Sometimes even for a major scan, the costs of using PET as opposed to invasive surgery can be a significant cost reduction strategy, particularly if the scan can help doctors accurately diagnose an ailment. Patients will need to take this possibility into account when determining hard and soft costs.

FDG radiopharmaceutical fees and lab fees are also added to the total procedure or even charged as separate items, but both are still part of the total cost of a PET scan. Radiopharmaceutical FDG is the radioactive element injected into the patient before undergoing a PET scan; how the testing facility obtains the FDG and how it is stored until use can make a big difference in the underlying costs that appear next to this line item. Lab fees are another line item to consider, which refers to the radiologist interpreting results. While perhaps more consistent among testing facilities than the other fees, there are still differences. Location of the testing facility may impact all these associated fees and often shows up in the lab fee as well, with urban-based facilities often charging less due to a larger patient pools accessing PET services regularly.

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