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Beat MRI Claustrophobia – All You Need to Know

Fearful of tight spaces? Worried you won’t fit inside an MRI machine?

We hear you. And we can help.

Many people tolerate MRI exams just fine, but others might feel anxious about the thought of getting an MRI. Maybe you’ve heard stories from friends who couldn’t tolerate the tight confines of the MRI machine for the length of time required to complete the exam. Or maybe you simply worry that your size will make it impossible to fit inside the machine.

We’ve heard your concerns. And we’re happy to tell you we offer plenty of ways to help you get the MRI exam you need – without feeling anxious, claustrophobic or embarrassed.

About the MRI Process – You’re not Alone

Let’s start by making it clear you’re never left abandoned inside the machine when you have an MRI at Premier. Our experienced technicians are always right outside the window – where you can see them and talk to them throughout the procedure. You may even be able to listen to your favorite music through headphones during the exam. Seeing a friendly face nearby, hearing a soothing voice and listening to music all are proven methods to calm any anxiety and make the exam time pass quickly.

And if the anxiety does become too much, you can immediately signal the technician to get you out.

It might not come to that, though, because patients say our spacious, open MRI machine offers so much room that they don’t feel cramped.

About the MRI Machine – Comfort and Fit

We use an open MRI machine that feels spacious compared to traditional imaging machines, yet it still returns excellent imaging quality for your doctor. Our open MRI machine is very similar in size to a CT scanner, with a wide portal to pass through. So, if you’ve ever had a CT scan, you should be able to be just fine with an MRI at Premier.

Many MRI procedures don’t require your head to go inside the machine at all, but if you need a head or upper spine MRI, you’ll appreciate the fact our machine provides a full 12 inches of clearance between your face and the wall – relieving stress for our patients with claustrophobia. Our machine also offers plenty of room to relax your arms comfortably at your sides without feeling squeezed. 

MRIs for Obese Patients

Open MRI is ideal for patients with concerns about whether or not they will fit inside the machine. Nobody likes the embarrassing feeling of bravely showing up for an MRI exam only to be turned away because their physical size made it impossible for them to pass through the machine.

We treat every patient with dignity and respect, and we offer the open MRI experience to help everyone – of any size – get the imaging studies they need to maintain their health. The open MRI machine can accommodate people of almost any weight because it offers so much space on all sides of the person receiving the exam.

Tips on How to Stay Calm During an MRI

You may feel calm throughout the procedure, thanks to the spaciousness of our open MRI machine. But if you experience a bit of anxiety, we can help you. Try these strategies to manage MRI claustrophobia:

  • Anxiety Management (conscious sedation): Our trained nurses can give you medication to relax you during the procedure. Just notify us in advance and plan to spend about 20 minutes extra – to give the medication time to work. And don’t forget you’ll need someone to drive you home afterwards!
  • Ask questions: If you fully understand every step of the procedure, how long it will take and what options you have to minimize your anxiety, then you’re more likely to get through the exam stress-free.
  • Breathe: Anxiety can cause shallow breathing, which makes the anxiety worse. Focus on drawing in slow, deep breaths that make your navel (belly button) rise and fall. This meditative technique not only will calm you but may make the exam time pass faster.
  • Chat: Don’t hesitate to visit with your technician throughout the procedure. Discuss your weekend plans, job or anything pleasant to pass the time.
  • Close your eyes: Pretending to sleep (or actually napping!) during the exam can make it a comfortable experience. Ask your technician if you can cover your eyes with a washcloth or sleep mask to help you relax.
  • Visualize: After you close your eyes, visualize your favorite place in the world. Is it a beach? A mountain cabin? Your own home? Picture yourself moving about the space and enjoying pleasant activities. Visualization is a powerful technique for calming the mind.

Open MRI can help you beat feelings of claustrophobia, thanks to the machine’s airy design. It’s the perfect machine to get MRIs for obese patients, seniors, children – anyone who needs an MRI exam without feeling closed-in. Once you understand how to stay calm during an MRI exam, you can move forward with the confidence of knowing you’ll breeze through it with ease.

Author: Elizabeth Hanes, BSN RN

Medically reviewed by Dr. Seth Means


Sources: https://blog.radiology.virginia.edu/reducing-mri-claustrophobia/

Learn more about our MRI services.

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