Claustrophobia is a fear of being confined to a small space. It’s difficult to know how many people in the United States suffer from claustrophobia because the severity of the fear can vary greatly and could get better or worse over time. Some people might be okay in a small room but terrified of being trapped in an elevator; others with claustrophobia might be fine in the elevator but terrified of being in a tight box. But general estimates put the numbers around five to ten perfect of the population, though. Even on the low end, that means around 15 million people suffer from claustrophobia.
While for the most part claustrophobia won’t impact your day-to-day life, there are certain circumstances where it can become an issue. One of the most common scenarios where claustrophobia becomes a problem is when you need an MRI. MRI machines are notorious for making people feel uncomfortable; even someone who never felt claustrophobic before may do so once they are inside the machine. However, the information that this machine can provide to your doctor can be vital for diagnosing health concerns such as tumors, inflammation in the bowels, or even cirrhosis of the liver. So getting through the process, claustrophobic or not, is a must.
Thankfully, there are a number of things that you can do to make the process of getting an MRI easier on yourself so you can overcome your fears and get the imaging that you need. We’ve been working with patients in the Tulsa area for decades; during that time, we’ve discovered a lot of helpful tips that you might find useful if you are feeling apprehensive about your scan.
Tips & Hints to Help You Get Through Your MRI
Tell our team you are anxious about the MRI.
We understand! We work with patients who are apprehensive about the procedure every day and get them through the scan successfully. It’s best to be honest with our team and let us know that you are anxious; you can do so at your appointment or even during your initial phone call to our office. This will help our team provide you with solutions that can ease your discomfort and help you get through the scan with minimal distress. There is no reason to be embarrassed about your anxiety, either; after all, you are in good company with about 15 million other people!
Go to a facility that offers an open MRI.
An open MRI can be a terrific option for those who suffer from claustrophobia. Unlike a traditional MRI machine, an open MRI is open on the sides; that means you won’t be completely enclosed inside of the tube. This can greatly reduce the anxiety of being in a tight space and allow you to get through the scan without any concern. Touchstone Imaging offers open MRIs at most of our locations. Simply ask about having an MRI when you call to schedule your appointment.
Ask if your head has to be in the machine.
It’s not always the case that your head has to be in the machine for the scan, so before you make that assumption, it’s worth asking your doctor or our imaging team about it. For areas of the body such as ankles, knees, and sometimes even hips, we may be able to get the images that your doctor needs without putting your head inside of the machine. If your head is able to remain outside of the machine, that can make the process a lot more comfortable for you.
Ask if you can listen to music.
Sometimes the auditory distraction of listening to music or a podcast can help you focus on something other than the fact that you are inside the MRI machine. Talk to your MRI technician about options for listening to music during your visit. While you won’t be able to take any devices into the MRI with you (no metal objects of any kind can be near the machine when it is working), many of our technicians have the ability to pipe some music into the room or into the machine. It can help drown out the noise of the machine at work, too.
Know that you’ll be in contact with the technician the entire time.
Our technicians will be in contact with you throughout the procedure. If at any time you need to stop the MRI, you’ll be able to let them know or press your contact button and someone will be there to help you out of the machine right away. Please know that if you do stop the scan, then you’ll have to reschedule it for another time. But knowing that help is always there can be comforting!
Learn more about how an MRI works and what to expect.
Knowledge is power! Knowing more about how an MRI works and what to expect during your scan can give you the power to get through the process. For instance, knowing that the clicks, bangs, and thumps that you hear during the scan are completely normal and part of how the machine works can help ease your mind when you are inside the machine.
Ask about conscious sedation.
If you’ve taken all the steps possible to reduce your anxiety but are still having trouble getting through an MRI scan, then you may want to consider conscious sedation. This is where you’ll be given a mild sedative that will help you relax but won’t put you to sleep; you’ll still be awake and conscious of what’s happening around you. This can help patients with severe anxiety get the scan they need for their physician.
We can offer you even more help in our office! If you are concerned about getting an MRI, make your appointment at Touchstone Imaging. Our compassionate team will work with you to help ease your fears and get through your appointment with as much comfort as possible. Give us a call or contact us through our website to learn more about the options available to you.