If you are like me, living in Panama and your insurance will not cover an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Do not make the mistake of not shopping around. Panama has a vibrant free market economy and health care is definitely not the exception.

Resonator in Aguadulce
MRI machine in Aguadulce

The health care provided by the government should cover working Panamanians, but there are not currently enough machines to cover the population. In addition, it might take months to get an appointment. If it is an emergency or you are not covered by social security, it is time to look at the private sector.

If you are in Panama City, you got several options with varying degrees of quality. The best MRI systems available in the isthmus are 3T in Paitilla Hospital and Punta Pacífica Hospital. After that, 1.5T MRI systems are available at the National Hospital, Marbella Medical Complex, and San Fernando Hospital. If you are not in Panama City, you can go to Chiriquí Hospital in David which is one hour away from the Costarican border.


I quoted prices at 5 different places. The following chart has the prices they quoted.

National Hospital – 1.5T Marbella Medical Complex Paitilla Hospital – 3T  Punta Pacífica Hospital- 3T San Fernando Hospital
Lumbar MRI $630  $650  $750  $714  $730
Lumbar MRI with contrast $683 $700 $800 $779 $793
Knee X-rays $108 $50 $79 $55 $63
Lumbar X-rays $84 $62 $82 $73 $81

After calling all of these places, we found out that the cheapest MRI can be had at the National Hospital in Bella Vista. There is a subway station right next to it. However, if you want the highest quality 3T MRI, Punta Pacífica Hospital has slightly better prices than Paitilla Hospital. Marbella Medical Complex seems to be the cheaper place for X-rays near Panama City.