MRI machine at Island Health.

As with any medical procedure, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can cause stress and anxiety. While an MRI is safe and painless, some patients fear they will become claustrophobic in the machine, leaving them a bundle of nerves on the days leading up to the scan. If you find that you are experiencing discomfort and anxiety before undergoing an MRI, you are not alone–these feelings are common. Because your health and wellbeing are our primary concern, we have compiled a useful list of tips to help you cope with MRI anxiety.

  1. Be Aware – Familiarizing yourself with the machine, noises, and how long the procedure takes will empower you to focus on the benefits of an MRI scan. Try researching videos and images online so you know what to expect during the procedure. The more you know, the less you will fear!
  2. Close Your Eyes – Covering your face with a towel or blanket, or simply closing your eyes and imagining yourself somewhere else in vivid detail will help you find calmness. If you are unable to see where you are, you are less likely to encounter feelings of claustrophobia and anxiety.
  3. Listen to music – Choose your favorite tunes and drone out background noise by listening to music through the provided headphones. This will help to soothe and pacify you during the exam.
  4. Breathe – Find tranquillity by focusing on your breathing or other meditation techniques. When feeling stressed, inhale through your nose and exhale slowly, counting to 10 each time. This is an effective calming technique should you start to feel uneasy.
  5. Talk to Your Tech – Throughout your MRI scan, you will be able to communicate with your technologist through a microphone. This means you are never alone! You can ask for updates on the exam process, putting you in control of your thoughts.
  6. Leave the Jewelry – Before the scan, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove all loose metal objects, including all jewelry, belts, and watches for safety precautions. Put your mind at ease by taking off all your jewelry at home so you are not focused on your valuables during the procedure.
  7. Arrive Early – Give yourself time after check-in to use the restroom and take a few minutes to prepare mentally. Arriving early will help you to feel less rushed and give you time to relax which will dramatically reduce your stress.

If none of these techniques have worked for you in the past, have a conversation with your provider about options for extreme cases of MRI claustrophobia or anxiety. If you have questions or concerns about an upcoming MRI, please call our Diagnostic Imaging Department at 360.299.4288. We are happy to set up a consultation with you to help set your mind at ease.

We offer convenient evening and weekend appointments, call 360.299.1315 to schedule.

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Published on February 17, 2021