Tricks to Getting Through an MRI Can Be a Treat for Nervous Patients

Every time he bent or twisted his knee, Michael Flaherty felt a sharp pain. He got hurt on the job and his doctor needed a scan to decide what to do next. While Michael was worried about surgery, he was also feeling uneasy about the MRI. But when he arrived at a center within the RAYUS network in MA he relaxed. The technologist (or “tech”) who helped him through the exam showed him the High-field Open MRI where he would get his scan. It didn’t look at all like a traditional MRI machine.

“It’s almost like an open middle that you slide right in,” Michael says. “It’s not really tight and claustrophobic like you would think.”

After getting the scan, Michael described the experience as more “comfortable” and “easy-going” than he expected. His fears, it turned out, were unfounded.

Taking a Personal Approach

Techs have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. They see patient after patient who would rather be doing almost anything other than getting an MRI. So understanding your anxiety is the foundation of getting their job done. Melissa describes her approach:

“We help patients in any way we can. The goal is to get them through the test. And it really is different depending on the patient the approach you’re going to take. You have to really get in tune with the patient, find out what their need is. A good way to find out is asking, ‘Exactly what are you afraid of?’”

Sometimes it’s as simple as explaining how the exam works. When you get an MRI, you can often bring in a friend or relative to sit in a chair right next to you. The design of the High-field Open MRI, available in Kirkland, allows you to reach out your arm and hold someone’s hand for reassurance.

RAYUS patient Steven Gordon expected to feel claustrophobic, but what he didn’t expect was a helping hand. When he started to feel anxious, one of RAYUS’s techs pulled up a chair and held his hand through the exam.

Tech putting headphones and sleep mask on patient

Using Distractions of the Senses

Technologists use tricks of distraction techniques to get patients through an MRI – open or traditional – more comfortably. The less you’re focused on your fears, the better you’ll do in a scan. That’s why you get a menu of options before your MRI to help distract you from worrying.

Sound: Headphones let you listen to the music of your choice and earplugs help you block out some of the MRI sounds. Some patients use both.

Sight: Sleep masks cover your eyes and block out your view. Reflective glasses use mirrors, so instead of looking up into the top of the machine, you have a view toward your toes and can see out into the room.

“People who are really claustrophobic need a distraction a lot of times or something to dull or heighten some of the senses,” explains Bethany. Though the tricks of sound and sight are simple, they can be enough to keep you calm and help you finish your scan.

Read about more ways to face your fears and conquer claustrophobia.