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MRI Claustrophobia | What Is It? & How To Get Through It?

If the thought of small, confined spaces prevents you from getting a much-needed MRI, remember, you are not alone; there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Claustrophobia is a real thing, and it is more common than you might think. 

For those wondering, “what is claustrophobia” it is an anxiety disorder that refers to the deep-rooted fear of the dark and tightly enclosed spaces.

At MermaidBeachRadiology.com.au, we always want to help our patients, and so today's blog post is about patients who struggle with anxiety and claustrophobia when getting an MRI.

Below, we have listed seven simple yet highly effective tips for reducing MRI claustrophobia.

But before we dive into that, there are few things you should know about the matter at hand. 

MRI Claustrophobia | What Is It? & How To Get Through It?

Reducing MRI Claustrophobia: Overview

We come across several patients who need an MRI screening exam but are extremely apprehensive about the entire process, fearing they would be claustrophobic inside the machine.

But bear one thing in mind: if your healthcare provider has requested an MRI screening, it's because they need images of your body's insides in order to come up with an appropriate diagnosis and treat the condition suitably.

MRI images can be critical to your care.

 And as far as MRI anxiety and claustrophobia, know that your most powerful tool is knowledge.

Before you head down to a radiology centre to get your MRI done, be aware that many of the MRI claustrophobia stories you might have heard are probably no longer accurate.

State-of-the-art and contemporary MRI machines aren't dark, closed-off tunnels.

They're well-lit, open on both ends, and are much wider than they used to be.

But we also realize that MRI claustrophobia might still be a matter of concern for some of our patients and, therefore, present you the following tips for reducing MRI claustrophobia. 

7 Tips for Reducing MRI Claustrophobia

Here are some of the ways you can control and even reduce your claustrophobia and anxiety during an MRI exam: 

Tip #1: Research and learn about the process 

Remember, knowledge is power. We strongly recommend you research and learn what will happen during the MRI exam.

If possible, familiarize yourself with the machine, exam procedures and its noises. Ask your doctor, technologist, and scheduler any questions that you might have as they arise.

You'll be surprised to see how empowering knowledge can be.

Tip #2: Talk to your technologist 

Many people feel they are alone during the procedure, physically that's true; you are alone when inside the machine.

But bear in mind that the technologist is overseeing you throughout the process, so in essence, you aren't really alone.

You can even talk to your technologist throughout the exam.

In fact, you will even have a “call” button that signals the tech in case of discomfort or an emergency. Plus, a good tech also provides you updates regarding where you stand in the screening process. 

Tip #3: Focus on your breathing

Another great and super simple way to handle MRI anxiety and claustrophobia is to focus on your breathing.

Some pieces of research have shown focused breathing coupled with other meditation techniques provide a calming effect to most people. So, there is no harm in giving it a try. 

MRI Claustrophobia | What Is It? & How To Get Through It?

Tip #4: Keep eyes closed

Simply keeping your eyes closed or covering your face with a washcloth or face towel can help you feel as if you're at home or in an entirely different space.

When your eyes are covered, there are fewer chances of you feeling trapped inside a tunnel box. 

Tip #5: Listen to music 

In some cases, patients are able to even listen to music via headphones during their MRI exam.

This can help and distract people with MRI anxiety and claustrophobia. So, before choosing a radiology centre, make sure you ask them if they offer this service. 

Tip #6: Try counting numbers

For some reason, many people find the monotony of counting numbers soothing. Plus, if you count slowly, time will pass way quicker than you may think. 

Tip #7: Bring support 

Consider bringing along a family member or close friend with you during the exam. Some radiology centres might even allow them to be in the same room as you.

Just make sure it's somebody who's presence calms you down. 

Final Note

If none of these tips and tricks has worked for you in the past, or if you feel they would not work for you during future MRI screenings, the option for undergoing sedation is always available, especially for patients who experience extreme MRI claustrophobia.

Keep in mind that the sedation wouldn't put you to sleep; it will only help you to stay calm and relax for the duration of the exam.

0Consult with your healthcare provider to see whether sedation is your best bet at reducing MRI claustrophobia.

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