CDI Miami | Tuesday May 17, 2016

How to survive an MRI or CAT scan if you’re claustrophobic

For some people, just thinking about an MRI is enough to provoke anxiety. For the approximately 9 percent of people diagnosed with claustrophobia, or a fear of enclosed spaces, “anxiety” is an understatement. Even for those without a clinical diagnosis, feelings of claustrophobia during an MRI are common.

However, there are many ways to overcome your fears before an MRI. Here are a few suggestions:

Choose an Open MRI

An open MRI mitigates fears of enclosed spaces by having much more space. Since the type of MRI depends on what your doctor needs to see, an Open MRI may not always be an option. According to Dr. Linda R. Aboody, director of radiology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Baskin Ridge, NJ, “Although it’s an OK second choice, the image quality is not the same.”


Ask Questions

Having an MRI can be stress provoking in and of itself, which is why it is important to know as much about the treatment prior to the procedure. Ask the technician to explain how the exam will work and show you how to use the intercom if you need to communicate with them.


Listen to Music

Music is a great way to relax, and distract yourself during the treatment. However, it has to be the right genre. Julie Lovan, Founder of The Effortless Girl blog, followed the imaging technician’s advice to listen to Christmas carols during her exam, she agreed. When Mannheim Steamroller’s Carol of the Bells came one, however, Lovan was over it. “I thought I was going to go crazy. I could feel my blood pressure getting higher so I just crawled right out,” Lovan remarked.

Although you cannot bring your smartphone in during a treatment, often times there are specialized headphones for your use.


Meditate or Visualize

Deep breathing, visualization, or meditation can help you relax. When the mind is focused on a relaxing stimulus, the stress of the exam is not as easily noticed.



“If we infuse vanilla or lavender on the pillow, we find that patients tolerate the exam much better,” Aboody said. You can ask the technician for your favorite scent or perfume.


Ask for special treatment

They are other options besides staring at the inside of the tube. “You don’t feel claustrophobic if you can see,” Lovan said. Some facilities provide extensive entertainment options, such as the option to watch your favorite TV or comedy show.

A recent study in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging found that when people who were claustrophobic lied on their stomachs, they were much less likely to ask to stop the exam.


Get Support or Counseling

Most facilities allow visitation from family during the treatment. Having a loved one in the room is a great way to reduce stress. You can also prepare for the treatment in advance by seeking out a mental health professional. Counseling is a great way to reduce fear and build self-confidence.

For more information on, or to set up an appointment with The Center for Diagnostic Imaging, call 1-800-371-0002.