MRI Scans and Claustrophobia

For patients who are claustrophobic, the idea of getting an MRI can be an absolute nightmare. It may be worse than just about any medical procedure they can imagine, in fact. It forces them to face a fear that causes a primal reaction in them, making them feel as if they are in real danger of life and limb, leading to panic. The whole time, they will have to remain perfectly still and allow the scan to be completed.

There are ways that claustrophobic patients who need an MRI can be comforted and, simply taking a few measures to make sure they don’t have to completely focus on being stuck in an enclosed space for up to an hour can make the scanning process much easier.


Claustrophobia is a very real condition and an MRI is a perfect venue to trigger it. Many organizations spend a great deal of time trying to help patients deal with the fear of the procedure. After all, this procedure very well may save their life, so it’s important that they are able to go through with it if their doctor orders it.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to comfort a patient going through an MRI is to make certain that the machine itself is comfortable for them. Some hospitals have larger openings on the ends of their MRI scanners than usual and make sure that there is plenty of lighting inside. This helps to reduce the closed in feeling that makes claustrophobic people panic.

One other technique that can be used very effectively is to simply allow the patient to have their head outside of the machine while the scan is being conducted, if possible. If someone is having their leg scanned, for instance, the patient may be able to have the entire process completed without ever having their head inside the machine. This, of course, allows them to feel the air circulating, it doesn’t make them feel closed in and it’s far less likely to trigger a claustrophobic reaction.

It can also be very useful to make certain that the technician taking the scan keeps talking to the patient while the scan is being completed. This keeps the patient in the loop as far as what’s going on with them, how much longer the scan will take and, even slight encouragement, such as “you’re doing great” can mean a lot to a patient who is going through a difficult time with a medical procedure. Rather than letting them sit there and feel like a coward, it’s useful to congratulate them for being courageous. If they are claustrophobic, getting an MRI done successfully is definitely an act of courage on their part.


Up to 65% of the people who get an MRI done will experience some level of stress during the procedure. Of course, many of these people will be facing down frightening medical conditions, and that only contributes to this.

It’s important, however, to understand the difference between somebody with actual claustrophobia and somebody who is simply experiencing stress because they are undergoing a medical procedure that they’re not familiar with and that is rather involved and intimidating. Claustrophobic people have a specific phobic reaction to being in enclosed spaces. Because of this, people who suffer from this condition may be recommended to be sedated during the procedure. This can make it a lot easier for them to get through the procedure and, of course, because they will be able to be still and allow it to be done without panicking, the results are better.


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Dec 29th 2015

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