Options For MRI Claustrophobia

Options for MRI Claustrophobia

MRI is among the safest imaging technologies available because, unlike CT scans, MRI does not use ionizing radiation. It’s not uncommon, however, for patients who are prone to claustrophobia to experience intense anxiety during an MRI scan. When patients are unable to remain still in an MRI machine for prolonged periods due to claustrophobia or other conditions, procedural sedation can enable them to endure the experience and get the valuable information that MRI can provide.

It is best to consult your primary care physician to learn more about options to combat MRI-related stress and if they are right for you during your procedure.

Types of Sedation

There are different types of sedation that are used for medical imaging exams. Depending on the type, sedation may be administered orally, intravenously (through an IV), injected, or inhaled.

The first type is minimal sedation, which changes your mood and relaxes you for the duration of the exam. There is also conscious sedation, which makes you feel sleepy but keeps you in control of your reflexes. Deep sedation is what most people think of as anesthesia; it puts patients into a state of unconsciousness and is almost always administered through an IV or inhalation.

Oral Medication

If you suffer from MRI claustrophobia or a high level of anxiety, talk to your doctor about your options. For moderate anxiety, your physician may prescribe a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are oral medications often prescribed for anxiety and appear to work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter that suppresses nerve activity. Common side effects of benzodiazepines include dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, and loss of equilibrium.

IV Sedation

If you experience more severe claustrophobia-related symptoms, your doctor may instead recommend intravenous sedation, also known as IV sedation. To get an IV sedation for MRI, you must have a physical and medical history within 30 days prior to your MRI in order to ensure the safety of these medications. 


If you know that you will be receiving sedation for your exam, expect to receive specific instructions from your scheduler. These instructions can include dietary restrictions and medicine to take before the exam. What you can eat or drink may also be affected by the type of scan you get, such as a MRI with a contrast agent. You will not be able to drive after having any kind of sedation. If you have been sick or feel like you are becoming sick, you might need to reschedule your exam.

Alternative to Sedation: Open MRI

If you experience MRI claustrophobia but are concerned about sedation, an open MRI is a great option to consider. An open MRI uses a series of powerful magnets to create detailed images of the body just like a traditional MRI procedure but doesn’t require you to be encapsulated in a closed space. Unlike closed machines, which are infamous for their narrow enclosures, these machines let patients see freely to both sides and can reduce the feelings of claustrophobia and MRI anxiety. They are designed to provide more space to reduce MRI claustrophobia and so that claustrophobic or overweight patients can feel more comfortable during the procedure.

MRI sedation can take several different forms; make sure to tell your doctor about all of your current medications and existing medical conditions if you are considering using sedation. 

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.


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