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I'm Claustrophobic: How Do I Prepare for an MRI?

I'm Claustrophobic: How Do I Prepare for an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides highly detailed images of soft tissues using computer-generated radiofrequency waves combined with a strong magnetic field. These images are often indispensable when it comes to diagnosing and treatment planning for many types of conditions, including cancers, strokes, vascular diseases, and musculoskeletal injuries.

While MRIs don’t hurt, they can make people with anxiety or claustrophobia feel uncomfortable. During the MRI, you lie on a table, which slides into the MRI machine, and it’s this enclosed space that can be anxiety-provoking. According to recent data, 37% of people experience anxiety during an MRI 一 and that includes people who aren’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Because this is a common experience, Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand wants you to know that preparation can help you prepare for an MRI and reduce your anxiety. 

Below, our team at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center has curated a list of tips to help you prepare for an MRI.

1. Ask questions

Sometimes the fear of the unknown can make any anxiety feel more intense. Our team is always happy to answer any and all of your questions, including what to expect during the procedure, how the process works, and how you can contact the team during the middle of the procedure, if needed. 

2. Utilize strategies from therapy

About 12.5% of the population have some form of claustrophobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are two common types of therapy used to treat claustrophobia. If you already see a mental health care provider for claustrophobia, Implement some of the strategies from your therapy. 

3. Listen to music

Not only are MRI machines small and confined, but they are also loud. The noise can be jarring in such a small space, but music can help you remain calm. Music can help calm your nervous system, reduce cortisol, decrease anxiety, and distract your mind.

Some people opt for a less relaxing music selection and choose an upbeat genre with a heavy drum presence. You can imagine the noises of the machine are just part of the song. Use your imagination! 

4. Keep your eyes closed

Before heading into the MRI tube, close your eyes (or wear an eye mask). When you do not visually inspect the space you’re in, your mind is less likely to dwell on it.

5. Breath deeply

Meditating and focusing on deep breaths can help you remain calm in a few ways. Deep breathing shifts your body out of flight-or-fight mode into a more relaxed state. Second, focusing on breathing helps your mind focus on inhalations and exhalations rather than the space you’re in.

6. Ask for a blanket

Some people find that wearing a blanket swaddled around them provides a soothing reassurance during the procedure. Weight blankets are soothing to people with anxiety, and while you can’t have a weighted blanket during your MRI procedure, you can replicate some of these calming benefits by being tucked in with the blanket.

7. Ask for medication

In some cases, these strategies aren’t enough to manage the anxiety associated with claustrophobia. Sedatives are a type of medication that can help keep you relaxed and calm during your MRI. Oral benzodiazepine 一 a type of medication that includes Xanax, Ativan, and Valium 一 can be taken prior to your MRI. 

Because they make you drowsy, you need to plan ahead for a friend or family member to drive you home afterward.

If you need an MRI, don’t brush it off. The images obtained via MRI can greatly impact your treatment planning, but we know that getting an MRI isn’t always easy, especially if you have claustrophobia. If you’d like to talk to our compassionate team, we’re happy to answer any of your questions to help you feel more prepared for your appointment. You can reach us at 713-781-6200, or you can simply schedule an appointment online.

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