Claustrophobia and MRI

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If you are claustrophobic or think you might be, here are some tips:

  1. Let your doctor know. He or she may prescribe a mild sedative to help you get through the test. If you do take one, don’t forget to bring someone along to drive you home.
  2. Inform the Radiology staff. The technologists who do the scanning work with patients all day and can talk you through the scan.
  3. During the scan keep your eyes closed. You can ask for a towel to put over your eyes. Breath normally. If you start feeling claustrophobic during the scan, talk to the technologist and let him or her know.
  4. Choose an open MRI. Open MRIs were initially designed for claustrophobic and overweight patients. You can read more about open MRI scans in this blog entry. Severely claustrophobic patients may need a sedative as well.

Keep in mind that there are a few MRI tests which won’t require your entire body to go into the scanner. These include MRI scans of the foot, ankle and knee.

Do you have any tips for getting through an MRI scan? What was your experience like? Leave your comments below.

open mri

Many patients find that a mild sedative is relaxing and
helpful in easing anxiety. Patients are not given heavy
sedation for MRI examinations, because it is very difficult to
monitor vital signs within the magnetic field around the MRI
scanner. If you wish to take a mild sedative for your examination,
you will need to discuss this with your referring
physician and obtain a prescription prior to the date of your
appointment. The imaging center cannot prescribe or
dispense medications to you. It is also important to note the
following when taking sedatives to relieve anxiety:
– Sedatives require time to produce their full effect on the
body and should be taken as prescribed by your pharmacist.
You may find it helpful to speak to the pharmacist
about your MRI exam so that he or she can give you
specific time(s) to take your medication. It is a good idea to
call the imaging center on the day of your appointment to
ensure that their schedule is running “on time” before
taking your sedative.
– Sedatives can make you tired and will impair your reflexes.
You cannot drive yourself to or from your appointment
when taking this type of medication. Some centers offer
free transportation services for patients that need this
assistance. Please notify the imaging center in advance so
they can ensure you receive prompt service from the
transportation provider.
– Sedatives may make it difficult to complete registration
forms and answer important questions about your medical
history. Some patients choose to complete this paperwork
before the appointment to avoid this inconvenience. Often
registration paperwork can be faxed or mailed to you prior
to the appointment, so you can bring the completed
paperwork with you on the day of your exam.

Some centers will allow you to listen to your favorite music
through headphones during the examination. Bring a CD
of something that you find relaxing with you to the
appointment. Listening to music will not inhibit your
ability to communicate with the technologist during the
scan; the music will be muted when the technologist is
speaking to you.

Some patients find it comforting to bring a friend or
family member into the room for support. If you plan to
do this, it is a good idea to have the imaging center
pre-screen your support person to ensure he or she has
no medical conditions that will prevent them from
accompanying you into the scan room. The support
person will be able to maintain physical contact (hold
hands or touch your arm) to reassure you of their
presence, but you won’t be able to talk with your support
person during the examination.
If there are no family members or friends available at your
appointment time, some centers can supply a staff
member to remain in the scan room with you. It is
important to notify the imaging center of this request in
advance, to ensure someone will be available to assist
when you need it.

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