6 Tips to Help the Claustrophobic Patient Get Through an MRI

6 Tips to Help the Claustrophobic Patient Get Through an MRI

Health and Fitness December 5, 2016


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides doctors with great images from inside the body. This noninvasive test is a great way to diagnose a number of conditions and problems. This is why it is used so much in the United States. Every year, radiologists review at least 30 million MRI scans. The head is the most looked at body part. About 22% of the scans are done of the head each year. This translates into 6.6 million head scans. The only drawback is that many people are claustrophobic and spending between 30 minutes to two hours in a long tube is a scary thought for these people. If you are claustrophobic and need an MRI, here are some things you can do to make the experience better.

  1. Talk to your doctor about an open MRI. Rather than lying in a tube, patients who have an open MRI lay on a table and the machine takes images from overhead. The advantage is that because this is open, there is a tube but it is smaller, people do not feel trapped the way some do in a traditional MRI. The downside is that the images are not as clear. Not all conditions can be diagnosed this way, say radiologists so you need to ask your doctor if this is an option for you.
  2. Learn as much as you can. For many people, the unknown is scarier than anything. When people go into the MRI machine and do not know what to expect and are already scared because of the small area in which they are forced to stay, it can create the perfect storm of fear and anxiety. Some people will go in and talk to the technician before their appointment to get to know the equipment and the procedure and then they feel better knowing what to expect. The people who work at radiology centers deal with claustrophobic people all of the time so they may have ways to help you, you just have to ask. Make sure you get all of your questions answered.
  3. Bring some music in with you. The MRI machine is loud. The way the machine makes images is through the use of magnets and the machine makes a lot of noise when it is doing its thing. Because it uses magnets, you will not be able to bring your devices in with you but you can bring music with you that the center can play through their system. Listening to music may even help the radiologist when they are reading your scans. You need to stay completely still. Listening to music can down out the loud noise but can also calm you down. The center should be able to give you headphones to listen to the music that you provide. Ask what formats the center can use.
  4. Take a deep breath. Many people who are nervous when they are having an MRI will do a few things to get themselves into a calmer state of mind. There are some great meditation techniques that can help people lower their blood pressure and relax. Others find that prayer is helpful to get into the right state of mind to deal with the MRI. Radiologists report that they know of many people who use these techniques.
  5. Talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medication. If you are really scared of going into the MRI machine, you may want to ask your doctor about taking an anti-anxiety medication before you go in. Some patients are given Ativan, Valium or Xanax about a half hour before their scan is started. This can help relieve some of the tension of the test.
  6. Ask if the center offers aromatherapy. Some radiology imaging centers will offer this as an option to help people deal with the stress of being in the MRI tube. They will infuse the pillow that is used with scent that helps promote relaxation. Some relaxing scents include lavender and vanilla but if you have a favorite scent, you can ask about that.

MRI scans can be invaluable in helping doctors make critical diagnoses and is completely pain free. If you need to have this kind of scan done, these tips can really help.