5 tips to alleviate MRI fears

5 tips to alleviate MRI fears

The doctor ordered an MRI. And if you are like many people, being in a confined space and lying in a tube can be scary. It is not uncommon to feel anxious or claustrophobic during a MRI scan. Until recently, the procedure involved sliding your body into a tight fitting tube.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body. Recent developments in the technology however, have widened these tubes, creating new space on all sides and a more open feeling.  However, many people still feel some levels of anxiety with an MRI.

Focusing on the benefits of the MRI can help to be a motivator. Dr. Smitesh Patel, diagnostic radiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., says that there are many benefits of having an MRI.

“MRI scans are better than X-rays at showing soft tissue,” he says. “The scans show inflammation, detailing blood vessels and creating cross-sectional pictures. In addition to the excellent views, there is no radiation.”

If you have an upcoming MRI and are getting a little worried about it, Dr. Patel offers a few tips to help you through the process:

A good relaxation technique can simply be the way in which you control your breathing. When the time comes during your MRI that you start to feel a little stressed, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to breathe in while counting in your head until you reach 10. Then do the same thing while you’re breathing out making all the way to 10. If you’ve accomplished that, then work on counting slower and slower each time, slowing down your breathing as much as you can.

Guided imagery
Another well-known relaxation technique is through guided mental imagery. Imagine a favorite beach or some soothing time in your life. Then spend time really trying to imagine every detail of that place. Close your eyes and visualize this place. Picture all the details and the people around you. What are you doing? Create a relaxing scenario that you will be happy to return to even after your MRI.

Try relaxing with meditation during the test. The machine produces rhythmic thumping noises and some vibrations. Use these noises to get lost in your meditation. You may find that you fall asleep briefly while the test is being done.

Try to completely clear your mind. Let go of all your to-do lists. Think of nothing. Think of black.

Many hospitals have music piped right into the MRI room. If they have the capability then the staff will gladly let you listen to your own music.

Think about what you would like to listen to before entering your test. Decide if you would like something relaxing or more upbeat. Just be aware that there will be times when you will be asked to remain perfectly still, so no tapping your feet to the music.

In some cases, some people may use medication as an option if they don’t think any of these relaxing techniques will work. “These sedatives can calm you or put you to sleep,” Dr. Patel says. “It is a good idea to have someone drive you to and from your MRI test if you are planning on taking a sedative before the test. When you get to your test, tell the staff what sedative you took and how long ago you took it.”

Whatever tactic you decide to pursue to combat the anxiety, Dr. Patel says to talk with your radiology technologist doing the procedure. He or she will be able to help you with any claustrophobic anxiety and they will have ways to help you.

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  1. Thanks Dr. Patel for offering these tips. I recently had to get over my fear of MRI. These suggestions helped me and before I knew it was over. Don’t want to have another soon, but know I can do it if needed. and the images were so helpful…

  2. Thanks DR. Patrel for those tip, I to was afraid of MRI. I here is another was that I found that work for me I put a small towel or sheet over my head before going in the room i call it out of sigh out of mine,

  3. MRI can be a pretty scary experience if you are not prepared. I know my little brother needed multiple MRI scans when he was little and the only thing that soothed him was medication. Now that he is older, mediation and music really work much better than the others. Thanks for posting this awesome info on relaxing during a MRI scan!

  4. Lisa, I have to go in for an MRI on Wednesday and so I really appreciate you taking the time to write out these five tips. I especially think that the idea of having music is going to be very helpful to me as I usually use it to calm down. However, is there a way for me to listen to the music through my ipod and wear earphones instead of having the sound piped into the MRI room?

  5. MRI offers SIRIUS radio and MRI safe headphones which the patient can use. She cannot use her own IPOD/earphones due to MRI safety.

  6. i cant control my innerfeelings…i am soo nervous during mri section….i am bravy guy…but i am getting afraid of that tube..lyingdown and that music…..plzzz help me doctor…with more best tips

  7. I had my first MRI scan recently and was given a tip by a travelling companion to ask for an eye mask. I asked for one and then closed my eyes anyway as soon as I laid on the bed. I shut my eyes and felt the bed being slid into the capsule and listened to all the noises the scanner was making, it was quite therapeutic. The Radiologist said that if I kept very still it would only take 10 – 12 mins. I was determined to be brave in order to get this over and done. It seemed a long time whilst I was trying to keep still but next thing I knew I was being pulled out of the machine and it was all over. I’m glad I took advice from someone that had been through this before. The scanners are perfectly safe and you don’t feel a thing. Be brave and get it done then treat yourself as a reward for being brave !!

  8. Jessica Ann Doerfler January 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm · Reply

    I had an MRI after my first seizure to figure out what caused it.

  9. Due to my recent car accident, the doctor advised that I get MRI scan to check if there are any internal bleedings in my brain. I’m really nervous just thinking about it. Thankfully, you provided tips in this article on how I can relieve my fear by relaxing with meditation during the test. I think I can do this. Thanks!

  10. I went to get an MRI. I made a mistake and put I have had one. I put I was claustrophobic. I was told we had to hurry, they were running late. I got ready for my breasts to be looked at face down. Then the earphones got put on me. I had to get out two tomes. Then she gave up on me. I feel like it is a procedure that cannot be rushed. Am I right?

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.