Open MRI vs Closed MRI

If you’re like most people, you probably have a lot of questions about MRIs. What’s the difference between an open MRI and closed MRI? Which type of MRI scan is better for me?

Open MRI scanners are becoming more and more popular because they offer patients several benefits over traditional closed MRI machines. However, each type of MRI procedure has advantages and disadvantages. If you’re considering an MRI, your physician could recommend an open or closed MRI scan. Find out more about MRIs and differences between the open and closed exams. 

What is an MRI?

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a type of medical imaging that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to generate pictures of structures inside the body, like bones, organs and soft tissues. The scans are used to diagnose various conditions, from tumors to torn ligaments. There are two main MRI systems, an open MRI and a closed MRI, and each has its own uses and advantages.

What is an Open MRI?

An open MRI system, or a wide bore MRI, is designed with a wider opening and has magnets on both the top and bottom of the machine.

An open MRI is more comfortable and easier to tolerate than traditional closed machines. Open MRIs have a clear view of the scan area, making them ideal for certain types of scans, such as brain scans. The open MRI machine we use at Premier is a Siemens 1.5 Tesla Espree. The bore opening is 70cm wide and it extends 125cm long, which enables head-out exams for up to 60% of routine applications. It can support a weight of 550 pounds.

Our Open MRI machine at Premier, a Siemens 1.5 Tesla Espree with large opening
Open MRI: Siemens 1.5 Tesla Espree

What is a Closed MRI?

A closed MRI machine is the more traditional type of machine. Closed machines are used more often than open MRIs because they provide higher-quality images. However, they may not be ideal for certain types of scans.

The main feature that distinguishes a closed MRI system from an open system is the size of the opening where the patient is placed. With the closed MRI system, the area where the patient lies is a long and narrow, capsule-like space. The closed MRI machine we use at Premier is a Siemens 1.5 Tesla Symphony with a 60cm opening that extends 205cm in length. The length makes it possible to scan multiple areas of the body without needing to reposition.

Premier's closed MRI machine, a Siemens 1.5 Tesla Symphony
Closed MRI: Siemens 1.5 Tesla Symphony

What is the Difference Between an Open MRI and a Closed MRI?

Infographic listing pros of Open MRI vs Closed MRI machines

There are many advantages of open machines over traditional closed machines. Patient comfort is one benefit. The wider bore accommodates larger patients, children, and patients with a variety of mobility issues.

In addition, Open MRIs are less likely to cause panic attacks and claustrophobia in patients. The lessened patient anxiety may decrease the need for patient sedation.

Also if you have metal implants, an open MRI produces fewer artifacts (a feature seen in the scanned image that is not in the original object). Open MRIs are ideal for scanning areas around metal implants, such as knees or hips.

One disadvantage of an open MRI is that they are not as widely available as closed MRI machines. The imaging center at Premier Diagnostic is proud to offer both open and closed scans.

Are Open MRIs Less Accurate?

The answer to this question depends on the type of MRI scan being performed. For example, open MRIs are typically used for brain scans, while closed MRIs are preferred for examining leg injuries. Your physician can recommend the appropriate scan for you. At Premier we’ll also ask you qualifying questions to make sure you receive the proper exam. 

Does an open MRI take longer than a closed MRI?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The time required for a scan depends on various factors, including the type of scan being performed and the patient’s size. However, open MRI scans may take a little longer than closed ones since the magnets must be in place longer.

What are the Benefits of Closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines also have some advantages over open MRIs. One advantage is that they provide a better image quality because, with this type of machine, the magnets surround the patient, creating a stronger magnetic field. This makes them ideal for certain types of scans where greater detail is important. Closed MRI machines also tend to be more widely available than Open MRIs.

Which is Better for Me, an Open MRI or Closed MRI?

The answer to which type of MRI scan is better for you depends on your individual situation. Both open and closed scans have advantages and disadvantages. While Open MRIs are more comfortable, they are not suitable for all situations.

If you’re considering an MRI, our team of experts at Premier Diagnostic Imaging will help you decide which type of MRI is best for you.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Seth Means.

Magnetic Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)