How much does a stress test (ECG, nuclear and echo) cost?

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If you’ve been told by your doctor that you need a stress test, but don’t know how much it costs, then this post is for you. A stress test (also called treadmill stress, exercise stress test, echo stress test, or nuclear stress test) is a medical procedure where the patient will usually exercise on a treadmill or bike while attached to monitors that measure heart rate, blood pressure, and other indicators. It is a test to see how well your heart handles stress.

A doctor may order a stress test if they suspect you have coronary artery disease or other heart issues. Some people may also want to get a stress test done if they are feeling chest pain or discomfort.

The average cost of a stress test varies from hospital to hospital. How much you will pay will depend on the type of stress test ordered, the type of machine used, your insurance coverage, and other factors.

In this article, we will discuss how much a stress test costs with and without insurance, the factors that can affect the cost of getting one done.

Cost of Stress Test Without Insurance

As with any other medical procedure, the cost of a cardiovascular stress test will depend on several factors. If you do not have insurance, expect to pay a higher amount.

Below are the price ranges for cardiovascular stress tests in the United States. These costs may or may not include the cost of analyzing the results.

TestPrice
Stress Test National Minimum Price Without Insurance$1,200
Stress Test National Average Price Without Insurance$4,400
Stress Test National Maximum Price Without Insurance$11,700

Average Price Range of Cardiovascular Stress Tests Without Insurance in Different States

StatePrice range
Boston, Massachusetts$1,150 – $3,000
San Diego, California$1,200 – $3,100
Minneapolis, Minnessotta$1,100 – $2,850
Detroit, Michigan$1,050 – $2,625
Tampa, Florida$1,100 – $2,850
Seattle, Washington$1,200 – $3,100

Average Price Range of Stress Test Based on Type Without Insurance

Type of TestPrice range
Exercise Stress Test$200 – $300
Echo Stress Test$600 – $1,500
Nuclear Stress Test$1,000 – $5,000

Cost of Stress Test With Insurance

If you have an insurance plan, the cost that you will pay will depend on your policy. Different insurance companies will have different rates for deductible fees or copay fees depending on the procedure or the type of your insurance plan.

For instance, if your insurance plan will cover 80% of the cost of a $1,000 nuclear stress test, that means your out-of-pocket cost will be $200.

On average, expect to pay around $200 to $400 for a stress test in the United States even if you have insurance. Take note that this amount may be lower for in-network providers, which means you get a lower rate compared to medical facilities that are out of your insurance network.

Different Types of Stress Tests

Your doctor may recommend a particular type of stress test depending on your condition and the reason why you need the procedure.

There are three common types of stress tests: treadmill exercise test, stress echocardiogram (echo), and nuclear stress test. Your doctor will determine which type is right for you depending on several factors such as your age, gender, current medical conditions, and medications that you may be taking.

Let’s take a look at the three different types of stress tests:

1. Treadmill Stress Test

Also called the treadmill test, exercise EKG test, or exercise stress test. This is the least expensive stress test of the three types of stress tests.

What happens in a treadmill stress test?

  • In this procedure, sensors will be placed on different parts of your body including your chest, legs, and arms by a healthcare provider. These sensors will be attached to an EKG machine to capture your cardiovascular activity. 
  • Following that, you’ll be asked to either ride a bike or walk on a treadmill. Then you’ll have to speed up walking or biking until you attain the target heart rate. 
  • After that, the medical professional will monitor you as your heart rate slows back down to normal or for a quarter of an hour. 

2. Stress Echocardiogram

This test is also called a stress echo which involves an ultrasound device to get a moving image of the heart.

What happens in a stress echo test?

  • While lying on an examination table, a special gel  will be applied to a wand-like instrument called a transducer and it will be placed against your chest. This device will be used to capture moving images of your heart while you are at rest. 
  • Next, you’ll be asked to walk on a treadmill or bike, as in the other forms of stress testing. When your heart rate rises and/or when it’s at its maximum effort, more images will be taken.
  • The two sets of pictures will be compared: one showing your heart at rest, and another depicting it working hard. After that, the medical professional will monitor you as your heart rate slows back down to normal or for a quarter of an hour. 

3. Nuclear Stress Test

A nuclear test is often the most expensive type of stress test. In this test, you will be injected with a radioactive dye that will be detected by a sensor and translated into an image. This dye will be excreted from your body through your urine naturally. 

What happens in a nuclear stress test?

  • You will be asked to lie down on an examination table while a medical professional inserts an IV line with radioactive dye into your arm. After 15-40 minutes, your heart will absorb the dye and a special camera will take images of your heart at rest.
  • Next, you will be asked to use a treadmill or a bike while hooked up to an EKG machine. At the point when your heart is at its maximum rate, the medical professional  will again inject the radioactive dye. You will continue to walk or bike while the provider takes more images of your heart.
  • You’ll be observed for a quarter of an hour after the test or until your pulse rate has slowed down to its usual rate. The images of your heart at rest and while at its maximum rate will then be compared.

How To Save Money on A Stress Test

A stress test can be quite costly especially if you do not have insurance. Below are some tips to help you save on a stress test:

  1. If you have insurance, check with in-network medical providers. Going to an in-network facility usually means lower out-of-pocket expenses.
  2. Whether you have insurance or not, shop around nearby providers in your area and inquire about the cost beforehand. This will help you gauge the price range of a stress test in your area. Make sure to ask whether the cost includes the price of the EKG and the cost of analyzing the results by a specialist.
  3. Determine whether you actually need a stress test in the first place. Stress tests are often recommended if you have symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath that may be due to a heart problem. If you are not experiencing any symptoms and do not have a history of heart disease, a stress test may not be required.
  4. If you are a low-risk patient and you were ordered to have a nuclear stress test, ask the doctor whether you can have an alternative test like a treadmill test instead which costs much cheaper.
  5. If you are a high-risk patient, it may be more practical to get a CT angiogram than a stress test to determine whether you have clogged arteries or heart issues. A study by Johns Hopkins found that CT scans outperformed stress tests in spotting heart blockages.

Paying for a Stress test With or Without insurance

If you need a stress test, the cost depends on the type of stress test that’s being performed, your location, and whether you have insurance or not. If you have insurance, be sure to check with in-network medical providers first. Inquire about the out-of-pocket expenses beforehand to know any additional fees. You can also follow our tips on how to save on a stress test.

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