Leg X-rays are painless imaging tests performed by radiologists that use ionizing radiation to create pictures of your legs, ankles, and feet. Leg X-rays can be used to determine the cause of pain in your legs, detect abnormal growths, and diagnose injuries. You only need an X-ray if your doctor recommends it.
On average, a leg X-ray costs $335 at a hospital or $181 at a freestanding imaging center. Keep in mind—this is an estimate for what you and your health insurance company might pay together (combined) for the procedure, not the amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket.
Your X-ray may be more or less expensive, depending on what kind of image you need and where you get it done. Read on to learn more about what a leg X-ray is and what affects the overall cost.
When do you need a leg X-ray?
There are many different reasons why your doctor might order a leg X-ray. Leg X-rays are often used to diagnose the cause of symptoms or injuries, including:
- Abnormal growths
- Broken bones
Your doctor may order a leg X-ray for a different reason—it’s a common diagnostic procedure. It usually takes about 20 minutes to complete, and though you are exposed to a small amount of radiation during the X-ray, it’s safe for most people. Women who are pregnant should not get X-rays, so be sure to tell your doctor if you’re expecting.
Where do you get a leg X-ray?
You can get an X-ray at a hospital imaging center, freestanding imaging center, or urgent care facility. For the purposes of this post, we're focusing on the costs at hospitals and imaging centers.
Hospital imaging centers are often located within the hospital building itself (or in the same area). Freestanding imaging centers are not affiliated with a hospital network, and they usually operate only during regular business hours.
Why is there a price difference between hospitals and freestanding imaging centers?
In general, a leg X-ray costs more at a hospital than a freestanding imaging center. This is true for other types of X-rays, too—hospital imaging tends to be more expensive. There are a number of reasons for this, including:
Hospitals have higher overhead costs since they’re open 24/7, employ a larger staff, and offer more healthcare services (including emergency care).
Hospitals bill differently. They often include revenue codes on their bills, which take into account the higher operating cost of the hospital itself.
The imaging equipment used may be different. X-ray machines vary in quality, cost to purchase, and cost to maintain.
If your leg X-ray is not an emergency and you can choose where to go, Amino’s X-ray search can show you prices in your area. But cheaper isn’t always better, so make sure to ask your doctor why they’re referring you to a specific facility—they may have valuable insight into the quality of the facility or the expertise of the radiologists who work there.
Will health insurance cover your leg X-ray?
Most insurers will cover the cost of your X-ray as long as it’s medically necessary. In that case, you should only be on the hook for your deductible, co-insurance, and co-pay.
If you don’t have insurance, you may have to pay out-of-pocket. Below are some tips to get the most for your money.
Shopping for a leg x-ray
Even if your insurance does cover some or most of your X-ray, you’ll likely still pay some of the cost out-of-pocket. To make sure you’re getting the most (and best) care for your money:
Ask your insurance company about your costs ahead of time, like your co-insurance, co-pay, and deductible, so you know what to expect.
Utilize your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
If it’s not an emergency, use Amino to compare different imaging centers in your area. Freestanding imaging centers often have lower prices than hospitals, so make sure to ask your doctor why they’re referring you to a specific facility.
Ask the imaging center about price. This is especially important if you don’t have insurance and are paying for your X-ray yourself. Some centers will offer a discount if they know you’re shouldering the cost on your own.
Check your bill to make sure you’ve been charged for the correct procedure.