Post By
Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

April 10, 2024

If you’re claustrophobic, what can you do to get through an MRI scan?

If you live with a fear of enclosed spaces, or claustrophobia, then getting an MRI scan (or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan)may be especially challenging for you. 

A traditional MRI machine requires you to go inside a small, enclosed space for a period of time, and may require you to hold your breath. This experience could be anxiety-provoking for people who suffer from claustrophobia. 

Let’s examine some ways and helpful tips that will help you get through an MRI scan, so you can enjoy a worry-free scan, and get accurate results.

Understanding claustrophobia and MRI scans

If your healthcare provider recommends you have an MRI scan, before the scan it would be helpful for you to have a better understanding of claustrophobia, and how it relates to an MRI scan.

What is claustrophobia, and why can MRI scans be challenging for claustrophobic people?

Simply said, claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces. 

Although MRI scanning machines are a miracle of modern technology, some of the first MRI machines were quite confining and made for very uncomfortable experiences for claustrophobic people. 

Even though today’s more modern MRI machines are larger and have more room for patients, many claustrophobic people still have a difficult time during the scan. 

Sometimes, just the thought of lying in an MRI machine is enough to set off a claustrophobic attack.  

Why does the design of an MRI machine make people feel claustrophobic?

A traditional MRI machine is a tube-like, long cylindrical bore, open at either end. 

Because the patient’s body part being imaged needs to be at the center of the bore, the majority of the patient is usually inside the confining bore. 

As you can imagine, this could cause someone with claustrophobia to have a negative reaction, from spending a long time in an enclosed space.

Preparing for your MRI scan if you experience claustrophobia

If you are claustrophobic, knowing the relationship between claustrophobia and MRI machines is a good way to prepare yourself before the scan. Here are some things you can do:

How can I mentally prepare for an MRI scan if I’m claustrophobic?

There are many techniques to help you mentally prepare for an MRI scan. Deep breathing exercises are an excellent start. 

You can also use visualization techniques such as picturing yourself enjoying a calming walk outside, or engaging in meditation to help you stay centered and relaxed. 

Also, make sure you inform the technicians about your claustrophobia so they can provide additional support. 

If your anxiety is severe, discuss with your healthcare provider the option of sedation to help you relax during the scan. 

What relaxation techniques can I practice before an MRI to ease my claustrophobia?

The more you know about MRI scans, the less your discomfort will be. So study and ask questions if you’re unsure about the scan process. 

Some people like to wear an eye mask to help them relax before and during the scan. 

Listening to soothing music is usually a good way to relax before the scan. While you are doing that, focus on your breathing to help you keep calm. 

Some claustrophobic people ask for a blanket during the scan.

Alternative options and accommodations for claustrophobic patients

Your healthcare provider and technologist will make every effort to accommodate your claustrophobic condition. 

Before the scan, talk with your healthcare provider about your options for taking an oral medication that could reduce your anxiety. 

Remember, your technologist will be in communication with you at all times during the scan, and if your claustrophobia rises to an unacceptable level, they will help you through the situation.

3t Wide Board MRI at Gateway Diagnostic Imaging in Keller-Alliance.

What is a wide bore MRI machine, and how could it help my claustrophobia?

Today’s modern MRI machines are much larger than the traditional version and utilize much wider, more open bores.

A wide bore MRI machine has about a 70-centimeter opening, which is around 10% larger than the opening of a traditional MRI machine.

Because of all this extra room, many claustrophobic patients can now better tolerate an MRI scan.

Is sedation or anti-anxiety medication an option if I have severe claustrophobia?

Yes, depending on your healthcare provider’s advice and approval, sedation or anti-anxiety medication is an option for claustrophobic patients who need to undergo an MRI scan. 

Make sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider before the MRI scan is scheduled.

What else can an imaging center do to make a claustrophobic person’s MRI experience more comfortable?

A professionally-operated imaging center will make every effort to help minimize your claustrophobia and assist you before, during, and after your MRI scan. 

Just make your wishes known, and your healthcare team will do their best to accommodate you.

How to schedule your MRI scan with us

When you get your scan at one of our imaging centers, we’ll make sure you have access to affordable, high-quality medical imaging from specialized radiologists and certified technologists. 

Reach out to a Gateway imaging center near you, and schedule your MRI appointment today.

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