How to Reduce Claustrophobia Before Your MRI
No one likes being in tight spaces, but for some, close quarters can feel like a nightmare. If you experience intense claustrophobia but need to have an MRI, plan ahead to maximize the chances of a successful procedure.
We recommend following these five tips before your scan to ensure your experience is comfortable – or, at a minimum, tolerable!
- Know what you’re getting into. It helps to familiarize yourself with the basic layout of the scanner so there aren’t any surprises when you arrive. The scanner, also known as “the magnet,” is located in a special room that is completely free of metal. It consists of a donut-shaped tube surrounding a movable bed. You’ll lie down on the bed and then get positioned into the scanner. If you’re getting a knee scan, your head and chest may be outside the scanner. In other cases, you may be positioned all the way inside. The good news is that you’ll be wearing a headset that allows two-way communication with the technologist, in case you need a break. Plus, you’ll probably be able to listen to music or watch television.
- Find your zen place. During the scan, you can remain calm by closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, and focusing on something other than the scan. Some people like to count – sheep, friends, whatever. Others like to simply focus on breathing, or repeat a meditation cycle. Try out some of these techniques before you fall asleep to help settle your mind or try them at work or another crowded location. You can wear earplugs since you’ll likely have a pair during your scan. With practice, you’ll be able to sharpen your focus and eliminate distractions.
- Bring support. If you think it would help, you may be able to have a friend or family member in the room during your scan. Call the center a few days before your scan to ask. If you’ve got family or a friend nearby, you can talk and distract yourself during the scan. (Of note, you may not be able to talk if you’re getting a scan of your head, chest, or abdomen – but you can always listen!).
- Find an Open MRI. Many imaging centers contain a newer type of scanner known as an open MRI, described in detail in this post. Some open MRIs simply contain much shorter tubes. Others contain no tube at all, with the scanner instead consisting of two large discs separated by about two feet of space. In the past, open MRIs didn’t take great pictures, and so doctors tended to use them only as a last resort. Newer open MRI scanners, however, can offer comparable performance to conventional MRI scanners, making them a better choice for claustrophobic patients. Call around to see if an imaging center in your area offers Open MRI or search Medmo for an “Open MRI near me”
- If all else fails, sedate yourself. If your claustrophobia simply won’t yield, no matter what you try to do, ask your doctor to prescribe a sedative for your test. The most popular choices are diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan). You’ll have to fill the prescription on your own, before your scan. These medicines can help you calm down and perhaps even fall asleep during your test. The only catch is that you’ll be in no shape to drive home after your test, so make sure someone is available to pick you up (hopefully not literally).
While Medmo can’t solve the stress that might accompany getting a scan we can help you with finding an ideal imaging center near your home so let us help you today.
To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.