Claustrophobic? 5 Tips to Help You Have an MRI

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The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is an invaluable tool in diagnosing a number of problems. These tests produce three dimensional images of internal structures in the body. It is an uninvasive procedure. This is why there are about 30 million are conducted every year across the United States. Despite the utility of the test, for many people with claustrophobia, it is hard. Typically, patients lay in a tube for the duration of the test, which can take between a half an hour to two hours to complete. If you are putting off going to the diagnostic imaging center for your test for this reason, here are some tips that might help:

  1. See if getting an open MRI is an option. Not every diagnostic imaging center has this option but you should ask. In this test, you lay on a table and the MRI equipment is mounted above you. The tube that is used, in this version, is a lot shorter. Moreover, all four sides of this are open. There is also an upright, open MRI where you are seated. This allows the patient to see out during the test. The only drawback of the open MRI is that the image quality from these MRI scans is not as good as with a closed MRI. You should talk to your doctor and see if this is an option for you. A lot of it will depend upon what exactly the doctor is looking to examine. It is always worth it to ask. Remember, they cannot say yes if you do not ask.
  2. Get your questions answered. If you are nervous about the MRI test itself, learning more about it may help. Often people have a lot of misconceptions that make the process a lot scarier and anxiety ridden than it should be. The staff of the diagnostic imaging center understand that a lot of people are scared of the test. While it is completely painless, many people are nervous with any medical test. The MRI test is one of the safest around. It is totally uninvasive and completely painless. It also uses magnets, not radiation. Talk to the technician who is running the test. They have dealt with other people who have claustrophobia and may be able to allay your fears. At the very least, you should tell the technician that you are scared as there may be things they can do during the test to make you feel less afraid.
  3. Check out the diagnostic imaging center before your test. Again, the staffs at these centers understand that people are scared and they will work with you to make sure the exam is as stress free as they can. Some people feel better if they go to the diagnostic imaging center and take a tour, see the machine and talk to the staff.
  4. Ask about your music options. Listening to music helps a lot of people through the MRI test. The machine itself is loud. During the test, you will hear a lot of banging from it. The diagnostic imaging center has headphones you can use with their sound system. The machine uses magnets so they will not let you bring in your own device but you can supply them with your own music. You should call the center and see what your options are for listening to music. They often recommend that people do this so that they are less afraid of the process. Music has a great calming effect in many settings and this is no different. At the very least, it can distract you from the test.
  5. Talk to your doctor about medication. Some people who have extreme claustrophobia are given anti-anxiety medication to take before they have the test performed. Some doctors will give patients Xanax or valium before the test. You would take it between 30 and 40 minutes before the MRI. If you go this route, you will have to have someone drive you. You cannot drive after taking these medications.

MRI scans can give your doctor much more information about your problem than anything else. It is worth it to go through with the test even if you are afraid.

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