Managing MRI Claustrophobia: an Effective Guide for Patients

MRI scan

Getting an MRI scan is nerve-wracking for many people. It’s a source of distress for those who feel anxious or who experience panic attacks in enclosed spaces. It can also cause sweating, trembling, chills, hot flushes, chest pain, queasiness, headaches, dizziness, and other physical symptoms.

Considering how almost 10 percent of the UK population are affected by claustrophobia, the medical community has to think of ways to make MRI scanning more comfortable for patients.

Opt for an Open or an Upright MRI Scan

People who have claustrophobia find it difficult to lie still in the confined space of a traditional MRI scanner. It’s a highly stressful experience that isn’t always tolerable. Even though it’s a medical procedure meant to give you a proper diagnosis, a conventional MRI can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.

As an alternative, you can opt to visit a private clinic with open and upright MRI scanners.

An open MRI scanner typically has three completely open sides so that you don’t feel like you’re in a tight tunnel. Your other option is the upright MRI scanner, which allows you to look out at your surroundings in between two magnetized plates that conduct the scan.

Familiarise Yourself with the Process

brain scans

Fear of the unknown is another valid reason for people to feel uncomfortable with an MRI scan. Put your mind at ease by familiarizing yourself with the scanning procedure.

Upright scanners allow you to move around more. Whereas conventional scanners require you to lie horizontally, open MRI lets you stay seated or to stand up if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Visit the scanning center — or schedule a phone call with them — so that they can walk you through the entire process. If it puts your mind at ease, you can visit the center and view the scanners before scheduling an appointment.

Consider the Possibility of Sedation

Open MRI scanners are designed for people who have severe MRI anxiety and claustrophobia. But if you feel like you need something else to help you relax, talk to your doctor about the possibility of sedation.

A light sedative isn’t going to put you to sleep. It will only ease your nerves so that you’re comfortable enough for the scan. Get the prescription from your doctor and take it with you when you visit the private center for your MRI scanning procedure.

Bring a Trusted Individual for Support

Knowing that someone’s there to support you might be enough for you to go through with something difficult. If this is the case, keep in mind that it’s okay for you to bring a trusted friend or relative with you for your MRI scan. Just make sure they’re someone who can keep you calm and focused during the scan. Healthwise, they should also be safe to enter the scanning room with you.

MRI scan anxiety shouldn’t stop you from addressing and treating your symptoms. By exploring your options and getting the support you deserve, you can confidently walk into an MRI center to get the diagnosis you need.


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