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Claustrophobia in MRI
Published on 21 March 2017 by Lauren Banks, updated on 02 May 2017
Did you know? Claustrophobia in MRI scanning is actually quite common place, affecting up to 20% of patients attending the imaging department. That’s a lot!
Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves the fear of enclosed or confined spaces accompanied with a fear of entrapment and physical restraint. The most common reported problems are the feeling of not being in control, the fear of suffocation and the fear of restriction. All of which are understandable when your laying in an MRI machine! Our Medical staff are very vigilant and aware of possible candidates for claustrophobia and have some great skills for making the experience as comfortable as possible. Psychological distress can be difficult for patients to cope with, often the radiographer needs to support in order to complete the patient’s scan successfully.
Here is some information below if you suffer from claustrophobia or are nervous about visiting us for an MRI:
Firstly, feeling in control is key;
The radiographer will allow you to examine the MRI environment before the scan appointment to enable visualisation of the machinery and judge areas where you might feel trapped.
You will be encouraged to bring someone with you to support you during the scan; your companion needs to be safe to enter the MRI room and will need to fill in a safety questionnaire before entering the room with you.
You can bring some favourite music to listen to!
It’s important that you as the patient realise that this is your scan and you can stop anytime that you want to and that there are no pressures to complete the scan.
We can offer oral sedation i.e. Diazepam if you feel that the anxiety may become an insurmountable problem
Explanation of the procedure is critical:
You will be informed of how you will be lying/positioned on the scanner i.e. feet first.
You will be told how long the scan will take.
There may be table movement during the scan as the area under investigation needs to be in the middle of the magnet for optimal signal generation. This is normal procedure so don’t worry.
The noises the scanner makes will change with each scan but all the noises are normal. However, the noises are loud so you will be given ear plugs and headphones to protect your hearing. This is why you can bring your own music if you wish!
It cannot be stressed enough how important communication is during the entirety of your scan. Your radiographer will tell you:
When the scan is going to start.
How long each scan sequence will be.
Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance! We will talk to you between each scan sequence and make sure you are happy. It’s important that we check that you are ok and we make sure verbal responses are received via the two-way intercom. You will be given a squeezy alarm ball to hold in your hand so if you need to come out of the scanner this is ok, it’s important to the imaging team that we are providing the best experience possible for you! If there is anything you need before or during the scan it’s important that you ask us, we are here to help.
We had a visit from a very anxious patient recently…
They attended the clinic looking to book a MRI Lumbar spine having failed to complete the scan before. She was hesitant but was also keen to get the scan done. It was for her own health so of course it was important to her. I was asked to speak to the patient to reassure her. I sat down with the patient and discussed why her previous scan attempt had not been successful. The patient had a lot of issues surrounding enclosed spaces and found it almost impossible to go into lifts and even struggled with being in a car for long periods of time.
I brought her to the imaging department so that she could have a look at the department and the scanner. She acknowledged that our scan room was much nicer than the previous one she had visited and that the scanner didn’t look as imposing. I encouraged her to bring her husband with her to the appointment so that she could have support in the room, she also wanted to take Diazepam before the scan so I advised her accordingly.
On the day of the scan she was still nervous and had taken her Diazepam which she was convinced had not worked. However, with a lot of hand holding and encouragement from the staff she successfully completed her scan! The patient left the department extremely satisfied with the service and support she had received and proud of her achievement.
To book your MRI scan today, please call patient services on 0800 852 1234.