A Bigger, Better MRI

March 1, 2012
Bottom Line Health
James Borgstede, MD

It’s true that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reveal tumors and other abnormalities with tremendous clarity, often at a very early stage. However, up to 30% of people who undergo MRIs experience some degree of anxiety and/or claustrophobia.

If you or a loved one needs an MRI but is anxious about the procedure, ask whether the imaging center has a large-bore machine. These machines, which produce high-quality images, can be used to diagnose abnormalities in many parts of the body and have extra-large (more than two feet across) openings, which help patients with anxiety/claustrophobia feel less confined. The machines can also more easily accommodate obese individuals.

Other options…

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  • Open-field MRIs are more spacious than traditional, tube-like models. However, the image quality isn’t as good and, as a result, may not be acceptable for all purposes.
  • Prism glasses, available at most centers, allow you to see out the opening and watch a movie while lying on your back in a traditional machine. This is also useful for those who are claustrophobic .

Also helpful: Tell your doctor when scheduling your test if confined spaces make you nervous. That way, sedation can be used to ease your discomfort.