Can you get liver problems after gallbladder removal surgery?

If you’re dealing with painful gallstone episodes, your healthcare provider has probably brought up gallbladder removal surgery as a potential treatment. It’s the best way to prevent future gallbladder attacks, which is why over a million people in the United States undergo gallbladder removal surgery each year. Still, you want to have all the information before you decide whether surgery is right for you.

Aside from questions about digestion after gallbladder removal, liver function is one of the main concerns some people have before gallbladder surgery. Your gallbladder and liver work together to aid digestion, but your liver can also work just fine on its own. Read on for a breakdown of what gallbladder removal may mean for your liver.

How does gallbladder removal affect the liver?

Your liver has a lot of jobs—more than 500, to be exact. It’s in charge of processing blood after it leaves your stomach, breaking down nutrients, balancing chemical levels, and metabolizing drugs so your body can use them. Your liver also creates a digestive fluid called bile, which helps break down fats in the foods you eat.

Your gallbladder is a small organ that lies right below your liver. Its job is to store bile created by the liver until it’s needed for digestion. When you eat, your body releases a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK), which tells the gallbladder to start letting bile travel through the bile ducts and into the duodenum (where the small intestine meets the opening of your stomach).

Sometimes, problems with the gallbladder or bile can lead to hard, crystallized deposits called gallstones. Gallstones typically only need treatment if they get lodged in the bile duct. That’s when they can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. (This is called a gallbladder attack.) If you experience frequent or severe gallbladder attacks, your provider may recommend gallbladder removal surgery.

After gallbladder removal surgery, your liver will continue to make bile just as it did before. Instead of excreting it into the gallbladder for storage, your liver will release the bile straight into the small intestine. This may cause some digestive issues at first, like bloating, diarrhea, or an upset stomach after eating fatty foods. However, most people can eventually return to their normal diet after gallbladder removal.

So, can gallbladder surgery cause liver problems?

Because the gallbladder and liver work closely together to aid digestion, you may wonder about the long-term effects of gallbladder removal on liver health. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between gallbladder removal and different liver conditions. So far, large-scale studies have produced conflicting results. 

While some studies have found a link between gallbladder removal and liver cirrhosis, metabolic syndrome, or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), others have found the opposite to be true. So, why the discrepancy?

It’s difficult to separate causation and correlation between gallbladder removal and these liver conditions. That’s because gallstones have many of the same risk factors as liver problems. For example, a high-cholesterol diet can raise your risk of gallstones, metabolic syndrome, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Other shared risk factors include leading a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese, and having type 2 diabetes. And nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can eventually lead to cirrhosis.

The combined risk factors work both ways, too—liver disease can also increase your risk of gallstones.

The two organs are closely linked. So, it can be difficult to figure out whether certain liver conditions were caused by gallbladder removal. They may have been caused by the same factors that contributed to gallstone formation in the first place. If your concerns about your liver health are keeping you from scheduling your gallbladder removal, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you understand the relative risks of getting the surgery versus the risk of living with gallstones.

Caring for your liver health before and after gallbladder removal surgery

If you have gallstones, whether or not you decide to have surgery, you may want to take steps to care for your liver health and lower your risk of future liver disease. Usually, this can be done through healthy lifestyle changes, including:

  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. This can lower your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and liver problems. It may also increase “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. This can help treat or prevent metabolic syndrome.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Try to switch out foods with saturated and trans fats for those with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like nuts, fish, and olive oil. Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein in your diet, too.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you grow muscle tissue while losing fat, which can help improve your overall health and lower your risk of many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and liver disease. If it’s been a while since you exercised, talk with your provider for advice on safely beginning a new exercise routine. Walking is a great place to start!
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is a known risk factor for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and it can also speed up liver disease progression in those with NAFLD.
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis, all potentially serious liver conditions. The best way to protect your liver from alcohol damage is to drink in moderation—no more than two drinks a night for men or one for women—or not at all. 

For help drinking less, check out this list of tips and resources from the CDC.

Is gallbladder surgery right for you?

If painful gallbladder attacks are affecting your quality of life, it may be time to consider gallbladder removal surgery. Making healthy lifestyle changes before and after your surgery can help protect your liver health for years to come. For more information about gallbladder removal, including how much you should expect to pay, read our blog post: How much does gallbladder removal surgery cost?

Sleep After Gallbladder Removal: Tips For Getting Shut-Eye After Surgery

Gallbladder removal surgery is the main treatment for painful gallstones, as well as infection or inflammation in the gallbladder or pancreas. The procedure can be performed as an open surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. Either way, it’s a relatively minor surgery with short recovery times.

Even with minimally invasive surgery, you may have some trouble drifting off to sleep after gallbladder removal. Tossing and turning is frustrating when you’re at full health. When you’re recovering from surgery, insomnia can make you downright miserable.

Good sleep is essential for having a healthy recovery after gallbladder removal surgery, so we put together some tips and techniques to help you get some rest during the days and weeks following your procedure. 

What prevents sleep after gallbladder removal surgery?

Sleep trouble is common after any surgery, especially abdominal surgery. The first few days after having your gallbladder removed, you may experience trouble sleeping due to:

  • Bloating or pressure in your abdomen. During open and laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, a surgeon pumps air into the abdominal cavity so they can easily see and reach the gallbladder. After the surgery, some of the gas can get trapped in your abdomen. This can cause bloating, sharp pain, or discomfort as the excess gas presses against your surgery incisions. 
  • Pain from your incisions. You may feel some pain or stinging around your incisions as they heal, especially if you had open gallbladder surgery.
  • Insomnia from the anesthesia. Some people experience trouble falling asleep after having surgery under general anesthesia. This generally goes away within a few days.
  • Inability to fall asleep in a new sleep position. After your surgery, your provider will probably advise sleeping on your back or left side. If you’re not used to sleeping in those positions, you may have trouble getting comfortable enough to fall asleep.
  • Stress or anxiety about your operation or recovery. Any surgery can lead to anxiety or stress during recovery, which can make it hard to fall asleep.

Discomfort from your surgery should start lessening within a few days, and you should be back to your normal sleep habits by two weeks after your surgery. Still, you can always reach out to your healthcare provider if symptoms are keeping you up at night. They may be able to give you medication or advice to help lessen your pain and make it easier to sleep.

Getting better sleep after gallbladder surgery

Getting enough sleep can help your body recover after your surgery. Here are some things you can try to get some shut-eye having your gallbladder removed:

  • Sleep on your back or left side. Your incisions will be on the right front side of your abdomen. So, sleeping on your back or left side can help reduce pain and irritation around the incision site, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.
  • Take prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. Your provider will prescribe oral pain medication or give you guidelines on taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines, like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Take the dose a couple of hours before you go to bed to help keep pain from keeping you up at night. (Note: Sometimes, pain medication can lead to insomnia. So, make sure to ask your provider about the best times to take your medicine for a good night’s sleep.)
  • Plan your recovery diet. Your body can digest foods just fine without a gallbladder, but it may take a little bit for your digestive system to adjust to the change. After your surgery, you’ll want to avoid big meals and high-fat foods in the evening to decrease your chances of having stomach discomfort or gas while you’re trying to sleep. Instead, try eating frequent small meals during the day. Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially in the evening. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
  • Make your bedroom a recovery oasis. You’ll have more luck falling asleep in a clean, made bed. Blackout curtains, moisture-wicking sheets, extra pillows, noise-canceling ear plugs, and eye masks may also help combat post-surgery insomnia. Make sure your home isn’t too hot or too cold before you lay down. And stock your nightstand with water and anything else you need so you don’t have to get up again after you lay down for the night.

Self-care for post-surgery insomnia

Insomnia can take a toll on your physical and mental health, but making a few lifestyle changes during the day can help you feel better and make it easier to sleep at night. First, try to get physical activity during the day, as recommended by your provider. Of course, you’ll need to take things easy (no running or weightlifting!) at first. However, taking brief walks around your home throughout the day can help promote blood flow, aid healing, and relieve bloating, all of which can help you feel better and more comfortable when you lie down to sleep.

Next, you can start to prepare your mind and body for sleep before you’re ready to go to bed. To let your brain know it’s time to slow down or get some rest, try out these tips an hour or two before you lie down:

  • Avoid electronics, such as phones, televisions, and tablets.
  • Use your favorite essential oils or candles to fill your home with relaxing scents.
  • Relax your body and mind with deep breathing, meditation, reading, or journaling.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Dim the lights in your home. (Pro tip: Open the curtains and let in bright sunlight during the day to make this contrast to nighttime even more powerful.)

Sleep may be difficult after gallbladder removal surgery, but with these tips, you’ll be off to dreamland before you know it. Your medical team can also be a great resource when you have questions during recovery. If you need help finding an experienced surgeon you can trust, our Patient Assist Care Coordinators can help. We work with a network of healthcare providers to connect patients like you with top surgeons who believe in charging fair prices for medical procedures. Click here to learn more about our Gallbladder Surgery Assistance Program and request a free quote today!

Can you live without a gallbladder?

Gallbladder removal surgery is often the first choice of treatment for gallstones and other gallbladder problems. It’s a common surgery, partly because removing your gallbladder doesn’t really change a lot in your day-to-day life. Some people may need to make minor changes to their diet to help with digestion after gallbladder removal. Other than that, you probably won’t notice a huge difference.

Over 1.2 million people undergo gallbladder removal surgery each year, meaning there are millions and millions of people out there living happy, healthy lives without their gallbladders. To understand why that’s possible, let’s take a deeper look into what your gallbladder does and what happens to your body when it’s removed.

What does your gallbladder do?

Your gallbladder’s main purpose is to store a digestive fluid called bile. Your liver makes bile to help your body break down the food you eat, and it excretes that bile into the gallbladder through the common bile duct. Bile stays in your gallbladder until it’s released into your small intestine to help you digest fatty foods. Your gallbladder empties during digestion then refills gradually as the liver creates more bile.

Where is the gallbladder located?

Your gallbladder is located on the right side of your abdomen, just underneath your liver. It’s a small, pear-shaped organ nestled between your liver and stomach. From there, it transports bile to your duodenum (the part of your small intestine that connects to your stomach).

Do you need your gallbladder?

Though your gallbladder plays an important role in digestion, it’s not an essential organ. Without your gallbladder, your liver still produces bile. It just sends it directly into the small intestine instead of keeping it in the gallbladder until the next time you eat. People without gallbladders can live long, healthy lives without making too many changes to their diet. 

Reasons for gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy)

Usually, gallbladder removal is done to treat gallstones and the symptoms they cause. Gallstones don’t always cause noticeable issues, but they can sometimes get stuck in a bile duct and block the flow of bile. This can irritate the pancreas or gallbladder and cause symptoms, including:

  • Sudden, sharp pain in the center or right side of your abdomen
  • Pain between the shoulder blades or around the right shoulder
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes

You don’t always need to remove your gallbladder to treat gallstones. However, your provider may recommend it if you have gallstones in your gallbladder or bile ducts causing frequent painful episodes or other complications, such as gallbladder or pancreas inflammation. 

Gallbladder removal surgery may also be recommended for people with large gallbladder polyps.

How does digestion change after gallbladder removal surgery?

When you remove your gallbladder, your body no longer has a place to store bile between meals. Your liver will still make the same amount of bile whether or not you have a gallbladder. The only difference is that it starts continuously releasing bile into your small intestine instead of storing it in your gallbladder. Once in your small intestine, the bile continues to do its job of aiding in digestion as needed.

Your digestive system can function just as well without a gallbladder, but it may take a little while to adjust following the surgery. Your provider may recommend a special low-fat diet before and after your gallbladder removal surgery to reduce your chances of stomach discomfort as you heal. After recovery, most people find that they can return to their regular diet without problem. 

Digestive symptoms after gallbladder removal aren’t common, but they may include bloating, diarrhea, or more frequent bowel movements, especially after eating fatty foods. Symptoms often get better over time, and they can usually be avoided altogether by staying away from triggering foods or drinks. 

Tips for promoting healthy digestion after gallbladder removal

Most people won’t experience digestive issues after gallbladder removal surgery. If stomach discomfort or other symptoms do occur, you can usually find relief by making lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Eating a low-fat diet
  • Staying away from fried foods and other high-fat foods
  • Eating four or five small meals throughout the day (instead of two to three large ones)
  • Avoiding big meals, especially after fasting for most of the day

Keep your provider in the loop about any new symptoms or changes in bowel habits after your surgery. They can give you additional advice if your symptoms don’t go away within a few weeks.

Does gallbladder removal affect your life expectancy?

Not having a gallbladder won’t affect your overall health or life expectancy. Actually, you may find yourself living healthier after gallbladder removal surgery (not to mention how great it’ll feel to be free of painful gallbladder attacks). If you choose to reduce your fat intake after your procedure, you may even increase your life expectancy by lowering your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers.

How much does gallbladder removal surgery cost?

Now that you understand how your liver and digestive system keep working after gallbladder removal, you may be wondering whether the procedure is right for you. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if surgery is the answer to your gallbladder issues. Then, New Choice Health can make sure you get a fair price for the procedure. The average cost of gallbladder removal surgery in the United States is $15,250, but different healthcare facilities may charge thousands more or less. Click here to learn what gallbladder removal surgery should cost in the U.S.


What are gallstones, and when do they need surgery?

If you’ve been dealing with unexplained abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, you may be wondering if gallstones are to blame. Gallstones are small, crystallized deposits that can form in your gallbladder. They don’t always cause obvious symptoms, but when they do, the pain can be intense. Read on for a breakdown of what gallstones are, how to tell if you have them, and what to do if you’re experiencing symptoms.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones, also called cholelithiasis, are small pieces of hardened material that form in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that sits under your liver, next to your stomach. It’s responsible for storing the bile that your liver creates and squeezing the fluid through bile ducts to the opening of your small intestine as you eat. There, it mixes with your food and aids digestion by breaking down fats. Your gallbladder empties during digestion and refills as your liver produces more bile. 

Sometimes, bile material will harden while in the gallbladder, leading to gallstones that can vary in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Usually, gallstones are small and harmless, but they can cause pain, inflammation, and nausea if they become lodged in a bile duct.

There are two types of gallstones:

  • Cholesterol gallstones are the most common. They’re mostly made of hardened, undissolved cholesterol and are usually yellow in color.
  • Pigment gallstones are more rare. They form when your bile has too much bilirubin, and they tend to be dark brown or black.

Gallstones can be diagnosed through blood tests or diagnostic imaging tests, such as abdominal ultrasounds or CT scans. If your gallstone passes on its own without pain, you probably won’t need treatment. However, if it’s causing pain or other symptoms, treatment may include gallbladder removal surgery or medications to help dissolve the gallstones.

What causes gallstones?

Bile is made up of cholesterol, bilirubin, and bile salt. While more research is needed to pinpoint what causes gallstones, the current theory is that they may form from these imbalances in your bile:

  • Your bile has too much cholesterol. Your bile is responsible for dissolving the cholesterol that’s released from your liver. If there’s too much cholesterol for the bile to handle, it may start to crystallize and eventually form gallstones.
  • Your bile has too much bilirubin. Sometimes, conditions like liver cirrhosis, certain blood disorders, and biliary tract infections may cause your liver to produce too much bilirubin. In your gallbladder, that excess bilirubin may lead to gallstone formation.
  • Your gallbladder has trouble emptying. Your gallbladder is supposed to empty completely during digestion. If it doesn’t empty all the way (or doesn’t empty often enough), your bile can start to get very concentrated, which may lead to gallstones.

You may be more likely to develop gallstones if you are:

  • Female
  • 40 or older
  • Native American or Hispanic of Mexican descent
  • Overweight or obese
  • Pregnant

Other factors that may increase your risk of gallstones include:

  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating a diet high in fat or cholesterol
  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Fasting or rapid weight loss
  • Family history of gallstones
  • Having diabetes, liver disease, or certain blood disorders, including sickle cell anemia or leukemia
  • Taking medication with estrogen, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy

Can you prevent gallstones?

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent gallstones, but you may be able to decrease your chances of getting them by eating more fiber-rich foods and reducing your fat and cholesterol intake. Regular physical activity may also help, especially if you can reach and maintain a healthy weight. Lastly, avoid skipping meals or losing weight too quickly, as those actions can make your liver release more cholesterol in your bile and make it harder for your gallbladder to empty properly—both factors that increase your risk of gallstones.

What does gallstone pain feel like?

Gallstone pain can be sudden and intense, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. This is called a gallbladder attack, and it usually happens when a gallstone gets stuck in a bile duct and causes a blockage. During a gallbladder attack, you may feel a sharp pain in the center or upper right part of your abdomen, possibly spreading up to your right shoulder or between your shoulder blades. Sometimes, gallstone pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or excessive sweating. 

Gallstone pain is constant during an attack, and it doesn’t go away after going to the bathroom, passing gas, or vomiting. These episodes may occur several weeks or months apart. 

Talk to a doctor if your gallstones cause:

  • Pain so intense that you can’t sit still or find a position to relieve it
  • Pain that lasts for more than 8 hours
  • Yellowing in your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • High fever with chills

These are all signs of a severe gallstone complication and should be addressed immediately.

Can gallstones go away on their own?

Smaller gallstones may pass through your bile ducts without getting stuck. When this happens, they can travel through your intestines and ultimately be passed during a bowel movement. You may not ever see the gallstone in your stool, though, especially if it’s smaller.

For most people, gallstones aren’t dangerous. However, leaving your gallstones to pass on their own may lead to:

  • Unpredictable and painful gallbladder attacks
  • Inflammation or infection of the gallbladder, bile ducts, or pancreas
  • Jaundice due to a blocked bile duct

2 out of 3 people who experience a painful gallbladder attack will go on to have one or more gallstone episodes during their lifetime.

When do you need surgery for gallstones?

When you have gallstones, your main options are surgery to remove your gallbladder or waiting to see if your gallbladder attacks get more frequent or painful. If your gallstone episodes don’t happen very often or you’re comfortable dealing with the pain, you may not need to have surgery. If you’ve had multiple painful gallbladder attacks, it may be time to talk with your healthcare provider about gallbladder removal surgery.

Gallbladder removal is the best way to prevent future painful gallstone episodes. It’s a common minor surgery with relatively low risks. (And yes, your body can digest food just fine without a gallbladder.)

What should you do if you think you need gallbladder surgery?

You deserve to walk through life without constantly worrying about when your next painful gallbladder attack will strike. To find out more about how the procedure works (and what it should cost), head over to our post on the cost of gallbladder surgery in the U.S.

How do you know if you have a hernia?

You can’t always tell the exact moment you get a hernia. Many start out small, and they may not cause noticeable hernia symptoms. You may see or feel a slight bulge in your abdomen, groin, or upper thigh. But you may not. By the time you start wondering if you have a hernia, you may feel some light pulling or occasional twinges of pain near the hernia. For some, the bulge shows up before any feelings of pain or pressure in the area. For others, the hernia pain comes first.

It can be tempting to push through the discomfort from your hernia if you’re only experiencing mild symptoms. As the hernia grows, however, your pain may get worse. 

A hernia grows when more tissue starts pushing through your muscle wall. As your hernia gets bigger, you may start to feel pain every time you exercise, lift, bend over, go up or down stairs, stand for prolonged periods, strain during a bowel movement, cough, or even laugh. If the pain is bad enough, you may start trying to avoid activities that strain the muscles around your hernia. (This is around the point that many people realize just how often they use their abdominal muscles throughout the day.)

Hernia symptoms can be different for men and women.

Hernias are more common in men, but they can affect both sexes. However, hernia symptoms differ between men and women. Because of this, many hernias in women go undiagnosed. (Women account for only 8% of hernia diagnoses.) If your provider can’t see your hernia during a physical exam, they may recommend an abdominal ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan to get a better view of the muscles, fatty tissue, and organs in the affected area.

Hernia symptoms in men

For men, the most common hernia symptoms include a bulge that you can see or feel, pressure or tugging sensation, aches, and pain. Feelings of discomfort may get worse when you strain the muscles near that area, such as during heavy lifting or pushing. For a groin hernia, you may also notice pain or swelling around the testicles.

Hernia symptoms in women

Women are more likely to have an internal hernia that can’t be seen or felt through the skin. These internal hernias can pinch nerves, trap abdominal tissue, and cause severe pain. Women can have visible hernia bulges sometimes, too, though it’s more common in abdominal hernias than in groin hernias. 

Other hernia symptoms for women include aching, sharp pain, or burning in the area. The discomfort or pain will typically get worse or more noticeable during activities that strain the nearby muscles, such as heavy lifting, walking up and down stairs, coughing, and sex.

Hernia risk factors

Anyone can develop a hernia, but some people may be more at risk. For example, having abdominal surgery increases your chances of developing a hernia near your scar, called an incisional hernia. And women are more likely to develop umbilical hernias near the belly button, especially if they’re overweight or have been pregnant. Men, on the other hand, have a higher risk for groin hernias due to their anatomy.

Other health issues can be mistaken for a hernia.

Diagnosing a hernia can sometimes be tricky, especially if there’s no visible bulge. And, since hernias are more common in men, they’re often overlooked as a potential cause of pain in women. Hernias share some common symptoms with a few other health conditions, so be sure to tell your provider if you think you may have a hernia. 

Sometimes, hernias can be mistaken for:

  • Groin strains
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Scar tissue adhesions
  • Lipomas (non-cancerous fatty tumors)
  • Hematomas (bad bruises)
  • Appendicitis
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids

Your provider should be able to work with you to figure out whether a hernia is the source of your pain or discomfort. If you’re unsure of your diagnosis or have additional questions, you always have the right to ask for a second opinion before moving forward with any treatment plan.

What should you do if you think you have a hernia?

You can check for a hernia by feeling for a bump under your skin in the affected area. However, some hernias don’t create obvious bulges, so it’s always best to get a potential hernia checked out. If you think you have a hernia, your first stop should be your primary care provider. Tell them about your symptoms, and they’ll refer you to a surgeon if they think you need hernia repair surgery

Hernias won’t go away without treatment, and they can grow over time, leading to more pain and potential complications. After examining your hernia, your provider can help you decide between getting hernia surgery or waiting and monitoring the hernia for changes. 

Since hernias can get worse if left untreated, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit to get yours checked out as soon as possible. Seek immediate medical care if you have any of the following symptoms. They could be signs of a strangulated hernia—a potentially life-threatening hernia complication.

  • A bulge that’s dark, red, or purple
  • Sudden sharp pain
  • Worsening pain
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Trouble passing gas or moving your bowels
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fever

Breakdown: Signs you may have a hernia

Abdominal (ventral) and groin (inguinal) hernia symptoms:

    • Bulge on the abdomen or groin (not always visible)
    • Mild pain, pressure, or aching around the hernia
    • Worsened pain or discomfort when you strain your abdomen or groin, such as during:
    • Heavy lifting
    • Bending over
    • Running
    • Going up or down stairs
    • Coughing or laughing
    • Straining during a bowel movement
  • Additional hernia symptoms for men:
    • Pressure or tugging sensation near the groin or scrotum
  • Additional hernia symptoms for women:
    • Burning sensation near the hernia

What happens next?

If you found yourself nodding along as you read this post, you may now be wondering if there’s a chance your hernia will go away on its own. Unfortunately, that answer’s typically no, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need surgery right away. In our next hernia blog post, we break down when you need surgery to repair your hernia and what happens if a hernia’s left untreated. Check it out here: Can a hernia go away on its own?

Is surgical mesh safe for hernia repair?

Hernia surgery is the only way to repair a hernia and keep it from coming back. Hernias won’t go away on their own, and they can cause pain and other complications when left untreated. Hernia repair is a common surgery — over a million are performed each year in the U.S., many of which involve the use of surgical mesh because of its solid track record for preventing hernia recurrence.

So why does surgical mesh sometimes get a bad rap? Well, a lot of the stigma can be traced to a series of television and radio ad campaigns funded by medical injury law firms looking for clients. The ads list every potential complication linked to surgical mesh, and they’re hard to forget.

However, most complications listed in the ads were caused by products that have been recalled and are no longer on the market. While all surgeries come with a slight risk of complications, surgical mesh doesn’t increase that risk. In fact, hernia repairs with surgical mesh may have shorter recovery times and reduced hernia recurrence rates.

Why do surgeons use surgical mesh for hernia repair?

When you have a hernia, an organ or internal tissue protrudes through a weak spot in your muscles, most commonly in the abdomen or groin. To fix this, a surgeon goes in to push the bulging organs or tissue back into place. Then, they repair the weak area in the muscle. Often, the surgeon will use hernia surgical mesh (along with stitches) to strengthen the muscle wall and lower the risk of the hernia returning.

Not all hernia repairs need mesh. Your healthcare provider can help you decide whether surgical mesh is the best option for repairing your hernia.

What is surgical mesh made of?

Surgical mesh is a medical device made up of synthetic materials (such as polyester or polypropylene) or biological materials (animal tissue, such as skin or intestine). There are a few categories of hernia mesh, all of which are safe for hernia repair: 

  • Synthetic and non-absorbable
  • Synthetic and partially-absorbable
  • Synthetic and absorbable
  • Biological and absorbable

Your surgeon will choose a type of mesh based on your hernia’s location and size, as well as your overall health.

How painful is hernia surgery with mesh?

You won’t feel any pain during your hernia repair surgery, as you’ll be asleep under general anesthesia the whole time. After surgery, you may feel pain around your incision, but your hernia mesh won’t make you feel any more pain or other sensations than you would without it. You may even have a shorter recovery after your hernia repair, thanks to the mesh supporting your muscles as they heal.

How does your body heal around the mesh?

The process is the same whether your hernia surgical mesh is in your upper stomach, abdomen, or groin. Your surgeon will place the mesh across the weak spot in your muscle wall and attach it with stitches. As your muscles start to heal, muscle tissue grows into the pores in the surgical mesh. So, your muscles hold the mesh in place, and the mesh strengthens and stabilizes that part of your muscle wall.

Can you feel hernia mesh inside you?

No, you won’t be able to feel the mesh through your skin after your hernia repair. Surgical mesh is very thin and pliable, like cloth. Plus, hernia repair mesh is usually hidden underneath a layer of muscle. So, if you feel around your scar after your incision heals, you’ll only feel your muscle, not the mesh.

How long does hernia repair mesh last?

Some surgical mesh is non-absorbable, so it will stay in your body permanently to reinforce the repaired muscle area. Other mesh is completely or partially-absorbable. So, all or some of the mesh will dissolve in your body over time. As the mesh dissolves, your new muscle tissue growth takes over the job of supporting your muscle wall.

Does surgical mesh appear on or interfere with imaging tests or metal detectors?

Surgical mesh is made up of synthetic or biological materials, not metal. So, it won’t show up on a metal detector. Depending on the type of mesh you have, it may appear on X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other imaging tests. It won’t interfere with the images, though. Your healthcare provider may even use diagnostic imaging tests to monitor your recovery after hernia replacement surgery with mesh.

If I need surgery in the future, do I need to tell my healthcare provider about the surgical mesh? 

Yes, especially if you need an operation in the area where you have surgical mesh. It’s generally safe to have another surgery in the same area as your surgical mesh — just make sure your provider knows where the mesh is before they operate.

What are the side effects of using mesh in hernia repair?

The potential complications of hernia repair are largely the same whether or not your surgeon used mesh. These can include pain, bleeding, scar tissue adhesion, infection, and hernia recurrence. With hernia repairs with mesh, there’s also a small chance of the mesh migrating or shrinking. Most mesh-related complications can be diagnosed with imaging tests.

How much does hernia surgery with mesh cost?

The average cost of hernia repair surgery — with or without mesh — in the U.S. is $7,750, but prices can range as high as $12,500 or more. Figuring out an exact number is difficult, though. The total amount depends on so many things: your location, whether you have insurance, whether you get the surgery at an inpatient or outpatient facility, and the list goes on. That’s why healthcare facilities are so reluctant to give cost estimates before a procedure.

We can tell you what you should pay, though, and we break it down in our hernia repair cost blog post. If you want to get straight to specifics, we can help out there too, thanks to our relationships with medical providers across the country. Visit our homepage to compare hernia repair surgery costs at healthcare facilities in your city.

Can a hernia go away on its own?

So, you think you may have a hernia. You’re probably dealing with some pain and discomfort in your abdomen or groin, and you might have noticed a bulge or lump in the area too. It may also hurt to cough, bend over, or lift heavy things. You know that you need to do something about it, but you’re not sure if hernia repair surgery is the answer.

Well, without making you read too far, hernias don’t usually go away without surgery. However, some people might not need hernia repair surgery right away, if ever. Read on for our breakdown of:

  • Why hernias won’t go away without surgery;
  • What happens if you don’t treat a hernia;
  • Which at-home remedies can help with hernia pain.

So, can a hernia go away without surgery?

If your first instinct is to look for alternatives to hernia repair surgery, you’re not alone. Many people hop on Google with hopes of finding an at-home remedy for their hernia. While home treatments may ease some of the pain caused by a hernia, surgery is the only way to actually fix it. 

A hernia is when an organ or tissue protrudes from a gap in the muscle wall of your abdomen or groin. Even if you can push the tissue back into place, the gap won’t close unless a surgeon goes in and joins it together with stitches or mesh.

Some healthcare providers may recommend using a binder or corset to keep the hernia in place. This temporary solution may help relieve some of the pain from the hernia, but it won’t help it heal. (Also, you should only use these methods as recommended by your provider. If done wrong, they could lead to potentially dangerous complications.)

What happens if a hernia is left untreated?

It’s sometimes safe to put off hernia surgery, as long as you and your doctor monitor your hernia for any changes in appearance or symptoms. But just like surgery, leaving a hernia untreated comes with some risks. If left alone, a hernia may get bigger as more tissue makes its way through the weakened muscle wall. This can make the hernia more painful and make it harder to do everyday activities, affecting your quality of life.

In rare cases, an untreated hernia could lead to strangulation—when fatty tissue or a loop of the intestine gets caught inside the hernia, cutting off blood supply. Strangulation isn’t common, but it can be life-threatening.

When you get a hernia, fatty tissue is the first thing to protrude through the muscle wall. This actually isn’t that bad because it can plug the hole temporarily. However, when organ tissue (like the small intestine) starts pushing through the muscle wall too—called incarceration—that’s a more serious issue. 

With an incarcerated hernia, you’ll notice that gentle pressure can’t push your hernia back into place anymore. You’ll also start experiencing constant pain or discomfort. In more severe cases, an incarcerated hernia can cause nausea, fever, inflammation, or darkening of the skin over the hernia. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you notice any changes in your hernia.

Can you treat a hernia at home without surgery?

It’s up to you and your medical team to decide when it’s the right time for hernia repair surgery. If your hernia is small and it’s not causing you any pain, you may be able to put off the procedure. To keep your hernia from getting worse (and possibly relieve some of the discomfort it causes), your provider may recommend:

Using an ice pack or cold compress. Ice packs may help reduce swelling around your hernia and relieve pain by numbing the area. Your provider can give you guidelines on how long and how often to ice your hernia.

Avoiding heavy lifting and intense physical activity. Any strain on your muscle wall could affect your hernia and potentially make it worse. Exercise is important, so don’t stop working out. Instead, stick to low-impact activities, such as walking, gentle yoga, or swimming. Try to stay away from any movement that causes discomfort or pain near your hernia.

Making nutritional changes to your diet. Depending on which type of hernia you have, your provider may recommend eating smaller meals or avoiding foods that cause indigestion, heartburn, or constipation.

Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight. Sometimes, carrying extra weight can put more strain on your hernia, leading to more severe symptoms. If your doctor thinks it’s healthy for you to try to lose weight, they can advise you on how to do so without further injuring your hernia.

Remember, these techniques are all about easing hernia symptoms. They’re not intended to be a substitute for hernia repair surgery, and they cannot actually heal your hernia.

Is hernia surgery expensive?

Cost is one of the top reasons people choose not to get hernia surgery. At New Choice Health, we’re always hearing from people who’ve had to put off hernia repair due to the high costs associated with the procedure. (The national average price of hernia repair surgery is between $7,750 and $9,000). 

Since we’ve negotiated all-inclusive bundled rates with some of the top surgeons and healthcare facilities in the country, we can usually connect those patients with hernia repair options they can actually afford. Through our Patient Assist program, hernia surgery typically costs between $3,000 – $7,500, thousands below the price most patients are initially quoted. 

What’s it like to book a hernia repair surgery through New Choice Health?

In 2018, Heather S. reached out to us after putting off hernia repair surgery for almost a year. Her symptoms were getting worse, but she couldn’t afford the $6,500 copay she’d have by going through her insurance. Then, to make things worse, she lost her job and her health insurance. Heather felt like she had even less options than before, but she knew she needed to do something.

So, she started researching hernia surgery and surgery centers. When she stumbled across a blog post written by someone who’d found affordable hernia surgery through Patient Assist, she decided to check us out.

“At first, it looked too good to be true,” Heather remembers. “But I put in my information and requested a quote anyway. Within minutes, a representative called me and explained how the Patient Assist program worked. My surgery was scheduled within a week of that first call.

“Before I paid, my Care Concierge sent me links to research the surgery center and surgeon that I was referred to. I did as much digging around as I possibly could and found nothing negative. I even searched with the Better Business Bureau. So, I took the leap of faith and sent the money. This leap of faith saved me about $6,000!”

More Patient Assist testimonials

Our testimonials page is filled with stories like Heather’s, all from people who thought it would be impossible to find an affordable price for hernia repair surgery before they talked to one of our Care Concierges about the Patient Assist program.

Here are some more examples of what our patients have to say:


“Patient Assist held my hand throughout the process for my hernia repair. I saved $4,000, I knew what the total charges would be before the operation, and I only had one all-inclusive bill to pay. “

– Mark R. (2021)


“I had an inguinal hernia but no insurance. As a self-pay patient with low income, I was in a bind. After searching the web for options, I came across New Choice Health’s Patient Assist. I chose an outpatient surgery center that was over 225 miles away, but the significant savings (about 50%) more than made up for the long drive. The doctors and staff were highly experienced, professional and friendly. And, of course, it was affordably priced—something I was unable to find on my own.”
– Albert V. (2020)


“This service exceeded my expectations in all phases of service and support. And, I saved over $4,000.00 on my hernia surgery with Patient Assist!”

– David P. (2019)


“I used the Patient Assist program for my hernia procedure, and I have no regrets! Their team did a great job advocating for me through the whole procedure, and they saved me thousands of dollars. When comparing the cost to other providers, my total savings came to more than $19,000. I know it seems too good to be true but that is what they did!I can truly say they were outstanding before, during, and after the procedure.”

– James M. (2019)

Next steps

No matter how much we may wish otherwise, some medical conditions just won’t go away without surgery. A hernia is one of them. Hernia repair surgery can give relief to pain and inflammation caused by hernias, as well as help prevent strangulation and other complications in the future. To get an accurate idea of what your hernia surgery will cost before you schedule the procedure, fill out this quick form to request more information.

How painful is hernia surgery?

When you’re diagnosed with a hernia, you have two options: get surgery to repair the hernia or wait and watch for signs that it’s getting worse. Invasive surgery isn’t a choice most people take lightly. At New Choice Health, we want to help patients make an informed decision about whether hernia repair surgery is right for them. So, in that spirit, we’ll use this blog to answer one of the top questions we see about this procedure (other than how much it will cost):

How painful is hernia surgery and recovery?

Like with any invasive surgery, you’ll need time for rest and recovery after a hernia repair. In the first day or two after your surgery, you may feel mild to moderate pain at your incision site(s). You may also feel extra tired as your body starts the recovery process. This phase is usually short, and most people feel much better within a few days to a week after their hernia repair.  

If you were dealing with pain and pressure from your hernia before surgery, you might notice some almost-immediate relief from that discomfort (even if your incisions are a little sore).

Hernias don’t typically go away on their own. Without treatment, they can cause pain, pressure, and bulging in the affected area—often the groin or abdomen. You’ll probably notice this discomfort most when lifting weights, coughing, or bending over. Over time, hernias can get bigger and lead to rare but life-threatening complications. 

After your hernia surgery diagnosis, your healthcare provider can talk you through your options.  They may help you choose between surgery and watchful waiting, but the decision is ultimately up to you.

Is hernia surgery major surgery?

Hernia surgery is usually considered major surgery. It involves cutting into the body and altering the anatomy to push back the protruding tissue and repair the hole in the muscle wall. As with any invasive surgery, hernia repair—with or without mesh—comes with a slight risk of complications. The most common include pain, infection, scar tissue adhesion, bowel blockage, and hernia recurrence. 

There are two types of hernia surgery: open and laparoscopic. Open hernia surgery is a bigger operation than laparoscopic. It involves a single large incision and is often associated with longer recovery times. Laparoscopic hernia surgery involves a few small incisions, which may heal faster and cause less pain and numbness than a single large incision.

No matter which type of surgery you get, you’ll be under general anesthesia and asleep the whole time. So, you won’t feel any pain at all during your procedure.

How long will I have pain after hernia surgery?

Pain is subjective, and everybody’s hernia repair recovery experience is different. However, the worst pain should go away within a few days. Despite some pain, most patients are able to walk on their own the same day as the surgery. Many also feel well enough to go back to work (depending on the nature of the job) as soon as three days after the procedure.

As you recover, you’ll feel some soreness and discomfort while your incisions heal. You may also notice some bruising or pulling around the incision site. Your medical team will prescribe pain medications to help minimize your postoperative pain. Their recommendations may include some combination of Tylenol, Advil, and narcotic pain medications.

  • If you have open hernia repair surgery, the pain will be mainly in the area around your incision, and you’ll notice it lessening gradually in the few weeks that follow your procedure. By weeks 4 to 6, you should feel mostly back to normal.
  • If you have laparoscopic hernia repair surgery, you may feel a cramp-like pain spread out over your entire abdomen in the day or two after your procedure. This pain should go away quickly, though. Then, it can take around 1 to 2 weeks for your incisions to heal fully.

Patient experiences with pain after hernia surgery

At New Choice Health, we’ve spoken to many patients who were surprised to find their pain after hernia repair surgery was significantly less than they expected: 

David S. had put up with his hernia for over 20 years before getting it repaired. “I remember nothing of the surgery itself since I was under general anesthesia, but I woke up soon after, feeling great,” he recalls. As his wife drove them the seven-hour trip home, he remembers feeling relatively pain-free, partly thanks to the pain medication prescribed by his medical team. The couple even stopped on the way home to visit one of their daughters! 

He continues, “Before I knew it, I was home and sleeping in my own bed, all repaired up. The first few days afterward were the hardest, and I laid around the house a lot. But then I went back to my little sawmill and resumed work (leaving the heavy lifting to my employees). Now, six weeks have passed. I feel great and am lifting again—carefully, of course.”

Here’s another story from Jason T., who had hernia repair surgery in 2019:

Back in December 2018, I was looking for an option to repair my inguinal hernia. I didn’t have health insurance and was on a budget, so my choices were limited. I’d had the hernia for over six months, and it was affecting my daily life as well as my job. I needed to have it taken care of.

Now, it’s been almost two months since my surgery, and I haven’t felt this good in years. I’m back to walking 6 miles a day and I have more energy than I’ve had in a long time. I never realized my hernia was causing me that many problems! After having it repaired, I feel so much more energetic, and I can do a lot more than I could before. It’s like a whole new me.

A few more words from our Patient Assist hernia repair surgery patients

“I am feeling very good, no complications at all, thanks to a good team of doctors and nurses. I am attaching a picture of me and my wife, a day after the surgery, walking and collecting flowers around the hotel.”– Misael G.


“My surgery went very well, and I returned to work five days later. I give all the credit to the surgeon, who helped me with a fast recovery!”– Carlene D.


“[My husband] Jim did so well that he actually went to Target (to pick up a few things) the evening of his surgery. LOL.”– Kim C., wife of the patient

Is hernia surgery worth the pain?

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether the recovery from hernia repair surgery is worth the relief from the pain, discomfort, and other symptoms your hernia is causing you. If you decide to wait, you’ll need to have your hernia checked regularly to monitor for any signs that it’s getting worse. (Since it won’t go away on its own.) Most people have quick, uneventful recoveries after hernia repair, a small number may experience complications or longer recovery times. 

If you’re ready to start exploring your hernia repair options, head over to our post on hernia repair cost averages across the U.S. There, you’ll find how much hernia repair can cost with and without insurance, depending on where you have the procedure. You can also visit our homepage to find price estimates in your city and request a personalized quote.

What should an x-ray cost?

How much should an x-ray cost?

In the United States, the cost of an x-ray depends on many things. These include (but aren’t limited to) your location, whether you have health insurance, and which part of your body is being examined. And, to make things even more complicated, your x-ray cost isn’t always the same as the price you end up paying.

Here, we’ll break down what affects the cost of your x-ray and — more importantly — what steps you can take to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

What is an x-ray?

An x-ray is a diagnostic imaging test that creates images of your bones and soft tissues. It can be used to diagnose and evaluate a wide range of conditions, such as bone fractures and infections, lung and heart conditions, and certain types of cancer.

X-rays are noninvasive and can be performed at hospitals and outpatient centers, as well as some doctors’ and dentists’ offices. During this procedure, an x-ray technologist uses a machine to take two-dimensional pictures of the inside of your body. It’s a quick process, and most x-rays are done within fifteen minutes.

After your appointment, a radiologist will examine the images and send the results to your physician.

What’s a fair price for an x-ray in the United States?

The average cost for an x-ray in the United States is $125, but prices can range from $50 to over $500. One of the biggest factors that affect the cost of your x-ray is whether you have it performed in an inpatient facility (like a hospital) or an outpatient facility (like a doctor’s office or urgent care center).

Based on our data, the target fair price for an x-ray is $65, whether you have health insurance or not.

  • National Average: $125
  • National Range: $45 – $775+
  • Outpatient Facility Average: $75
  • Inpatient Facility Average: $450
  • Target Fair Price: $65

X-Ray Cost Averages Around the United States

Location Price Range
Chicago, IL X-Ray Cost Average $130 – $330
Dallas, TX X-Ray Cost Average $120 – $300
New York, NY X-Ray Cost Average $100 – $260
Los Angeles, CA X-Ray Cost Average $230 – $600
Miami, FL X-Ray Cost Average $100 – $250
Houston, TX X-Ray Cost Average $130 – $320
Philadelphia, PA X-Ray Cost Average $130 – $340
Phoenix, AZ X-Ray Cost Average $170 – $420
Atlanta, GA X-Ray Cost Average $160 – $400
Washington, DC X-Ray Cost Average $170 – $420

What can affect how much an x-ray costs?

A few things can affect the cost of healthcare, no matter which type of procedure you’re getting. The main factors that decide the price of your procedure are:

  • Facility setting — Different facilities can charge different amounts for the same procedure. Having your x-ray done in a hospital can cost far more than having it done in a doctor’s office or urgent care center. (Inpatient facilities, like hospitals, tend to cost more to run, so patients end up paying more for care.)
  • Health insurance — The cost of an x-ray can vary between insurance providers. The price you pay largely depends on how much of the procedure your insurance plan covers, if any at all. If you don’t have health insurance, you can expect to pay the full cost out-of-pocket. 
  • Location — The region, state, and even city you live in can affect the cost of your medical procedure. For example, if you live in a rural area with fewer facilities to choose from, you’ll probably end up paying more than you would if you lived in a city with many different providers. 

Inpatient vs. outpatient facility cost differences

Inpatient and outpatient facilities will offer significantly different prices for x-rays. The national average cost for an x-ray at inpatient facilities is $450. The same procedure at outpatient facilities averages $75. 

Insured vs. uninsured cost differences

Usually, insured patients will pay less for x-rays than uninsured patients, especially when they stay in-network and have the procedure in an outpatient facility.

In-network vs. out-of-network cost differences

If you have health insurance, you’ll need to make sure you have your x-ray done at a facility that’s in your insurance network. In-network providers will almost always be cheaper than out-of-network providers. 

Payment responsibility

Nearly everyone who has an x-ray will have to pay some of the cost out-of-pocket. If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll have to pay for the total cost of the procedure. If you have health insurance, you’ll still need to pay your deductible, copay, and coinsurance amounts. Your insurance benefits coordinator can help you understand how much your insurance covers and how much of the cost you’re responsible for — just call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask.

More factors that affect the cost of an x-ray

  • Contrast materials — Your physician might request an x-ray with contrast materials, such as barium or iodine. These special dyes can help create a more detailed image of your soft tissues, like blood vessels and organs. If your doctor says you need an x-ray with contrast, ask if the contrast material is included in the total cost of your procedure. 
  • Additional office visits — You may have a follow-up appointment soon after the x-ray to discuss your results. Ask if this follow-up visit is included in the total cost of your procedure.

Are there alternatives to an x-ray?

An x-ray is a common procedure that allows your healthcare provider to see images of your bones, organs, and other internal structures. If your doctor recommends an x-ray, it’s probably because it’s the best imaging test for your situation. (X-rays are usually faster and more accessible than other forms of imaging.) There are some alternatives to an x-ray, though you’ll want to check with your doctor to see if they are a good option for you.

  • Magnetic Resonance ImagingMagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a procedure that uses radio waves and large magnets to take detailed images of the body’s internal structures. Unlike x-rays, MRIs don’t use ionizing radiation. An MRI may provide more detailed images than an x-ray, but the scan typically takes much longer to perform.
  • Ultrasound — An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to produce images of the organs, blood vessels, and other soft tissues inside the body. This procedure doesn’t produce the ionizing radiation present in x-rays. However, it only shows images of body parts that don’t contain gas and aren’t hidden by bone.
  • CT Scan — A computed tomography (CT) scan is a diagnostic imaging test used to examine the bones, organs, blood vessels, and soft tissues inside the body. During a CT scan, x-rays are taken from many different angles. Then, a computer combines the images to create a cross-sectional picture. 

The imaging test you get will depend on your personal health and your doctor’s recommendations. You can always ask your doctor why they’re recommending a specific procedure, and you always have the right to a second opinion.

Your x-ray checklist

  1. Review the total cost of your x-ray with your physician, and keep a record of what they say. If you get a higher medical bill than you expected, this information will come in handy.
  2. Ask your healthcare provider if you can get your x-ray in an outpatient setting. 
  3. Check that all providers are in-network. Sometimes a provider who treats you will be out-of-network (such as a radiologist or x-ray technician). You can avoid this by asking your physician whether all of the providers who will treat you are in-network for your insurance. 
  4. Ask what the typical cost is if the physician finds other areas that need to be examined during your x-ray.

Finding a fair price for your x-ray

The cost of an x-ray can vary widely between areas—and even within a single facility—and it can be difficult to know if you are paying a fair price. New Choice Health compares x-ray costs across healthcare facilities to give you the confidence that you’re getting the best value for your procedure. Use New Choice Health’s comparison tool to save money on your x-ray today.

How are x-rays different from other diagnostic imaging scans?

An x-ray is a diagnostic imaging procedure that can show your healthcare provider the inner workings of your body. It’s a fast, painless scan that can be used in a wide range of medical situations, such as diagnosing the cause of chest pain, checking for broken bones, and monitoring cancer growth. X-rays are the most widely used imaging procedure, but they’re not the only one out there. Here, we’ll dig into other common diagnostic imaging tests and see how they stack up against x-rays.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scans Vs. X-rays

A computed tomography (CT) scan is an imaging test that creates pictures of organs, bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues inside the body. CT scans use the same ionizing radiation as x-rays to produce images of the body’s internal structures. The major difference is that CT scans are a series of x-rays taken from many different angles. After the scan, a computer combines all the x-rays to create a cross-sectional image. Sometimes, a technician will take multiple CT scans and combine them to create a three-dimensional image.

Like an x-ray, a CT scan can help your healthcare provider diagnose and monitor the condition of your internal organs, bones, and other tissues. Because CT scans involve combining many different images, they offer a clearer view of your internal structures than a regular x-ray. CT scans are commonly used to diagnose and evaluate joint and bone issues, certain diseases and cancers, internal bleeding, and blood clots.

CT scans are typically performed at outpatient centers, and the process can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. The procedure is quick and painless, so you’ll be awake for the scan. If you have the procedure in your provider’s office, they’ll be able to discuss your results immediately. If you have your scan done at an imaging center, a radiologist will interpret the images and send the results to your provider. 

The national average cost for a CT scan is $3,275.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans Vs. X-rays

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a diagnostic imaging procedure that helps a healthcare provider understand how your body’s organs and tissues are working. Before your PET scan, you’ll receive a radioactive tracer through an IV. The tracer will travel through your body and gather in spaces with high levels of chemical activity (this typically includes your organs). Any areas where the tracer gathers will show brightly in the pictures created during the scan. 

PET scans are commonly used to detect and evaluate:

  • Brain disorders and other brain conditions
  • Areas of decreased blood flow to the heart
  • Lung masses
  • Certain types of cancer, especially during and after cancer treatment

Unlike an x-ray, a PET scan maps out how your blood flows to and from your organs. Since a PET scan creates a picture of your body’s structures at a cellular level, it can be used for the early detection of different diseases.

PET scans are typically done at outpatient centers, and most people go home right after the scan. The procedure is painless, but your provider may prescribe a mild sedative to help with back pain or claustrophobia. After your PET scan, a radiologist will examine the images and send the results to your physician.

The national average cost for a PET scan is $5,750.

MRIs Vs. X-rays

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the only procedure on this list that doesn’t use radiation to create images of the inside of your body. Instead, the MRI machine uses magnets, radio waves, and a computer to generate and display the pictures. MRIs are usually used to take pictures of the soft tissues in your body — such as organs, muscles, and nerves — not the bones. They tend to produce much clearer images than x-rays and CT scans.

MRIs can help a healthacare provider detect or evaluate:

  • Injuries or more severe diseases in the brain, spinal cord, and internal organs
  • Muscle tears
  • Herniations
  • Tumors
  • Heart disease
  • The progression of chronic health conditions during and after treatment

An MRI can be performed at a hospital or outpatient imaging facility. Scans can take 30 minutes to two hours to complete, depending on the reason for the procedure. MRIs are painless, so most people aren’t sedated for the scan. However, your provider may prescribe medication to make the scan more comfortable if you have claustrophobia or PTSD or it’s painful for you to lay still. After your MRI, a radiologist will interpret your scans and send the results to your doctor.

The national average cost of an MRI is $1,325.

Finding A Fair Price For Any Medical Imaging Procedure

No matter which imaging test your provider recommends, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting charged a fair price. Unfortunately, finding an upfront cost for your procedure can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. New Choice Health cuts through the conflicting information for you, so you know your financial responsibility before you have your scan done. Use New Choice Health’s comparison tool to find the best price for your imaging test today.