MRI & Claustrophobia

The most important thing to remember while undergoing an MRI scan is to lie still and relax. However, for patients who feel uncomfortable in confined spaces, these examinations can lead to some tense and anxious moments.

At CitiScan Radiology, we’ve taken the following measures to help those patients who expect to feel claustrophobic, or suffer from claustrophobia, during their MRI:

  • Our MRI scanner is well lit, ventilated, and open at both ends. We’ve invested in a ‘wide-bore’ MRI, which means the tunnel is more spacious, providing a more comfortable and less intimidating setting.
  • We’ll do our best to make you as comfortable as possible. Our well-trained technologists will work very closely with you to help lower anxiety. We can give you a blanket to help you to feel more secure, place pillows under your knees, and give you earplugs or a headset to help block out noise from the scanner. If you’d prefer, we can play music for you – just tell us your preferred playlist!
  • Our MRI technologist can see and hear you at all times during the scan. We will talk you through the process, step by step, and give you updates throughout the scan on how much longer there is to go. At any time, you can let us know if you have an itch, need to be repositioned or just have to get out of the machine right away.
  • For some MRI exams, depending on the body part being imaged, we may not need to have your head inside the scanner at all. This dramatically lowers the expectation or experience of claustrophobia. For example, exams of the knee, foot and leg do not require you to enter the MRI scanner tube completely. You will enter the MRI machine feet first and your head will remain outside of the scanner. For MRI examinations of hips, pelvis or lower back, your head will be just inside the scanner.
  • It may help relieve some of your anxiety about having an MRI exam if you understand more about MRI and how it works. We invite our patients who are concerned about claustrophobia to arrange a time to come in and become familiar with our MRI machine and how it works prior to your appointment.

Tips to alleviate anxiety during an MRI scan:

  • Close your eyes: You are less likely to feel confined if you keep your eyes closed. We can also provide an eye mask if you would prefer.
  • Be aware of your breathing: This is a well-known form of meditation that can help you stay calm and relaxed.

You can also talk to your GP and consider sedation options. If you are prone to panic attacks in closed places and feel the above options may not be beneficial to you, mild sedation that will not put you to sleep, but will allow you to remain calm and relaxed during the MRI procedure may be the right choice for you.