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 What is Claustrophobia?


Claustrophobia is defined as "a fear of being in a confined or enclosed place". We strongly believe that by understanding the MRI procedure, many "claustrophobic" patients realize their fears can be minimized.

Many can complete the study without any type of medication to help them relax. Most importantly, keep in mind that the area on which you are lying is not enclosed at any time.

It is, however, somewhat confining, so if you are very nervous, we do have alternatives available. First we will thoroughly explain the procedure, and then discuss alternatives for helping you relax. We've developed a program that combines counseling, education, and therapeutic techniques. Oftentimes a person battling claustrophobia is able to comfortably complete the study and get the quality diagnosis they need without the assistance of pre-medication.

After you arrive at the center you will sign consent forms. We will copy insurance cards and collect any outside images you may have brought with you. Then the technologist will explain the procedure to you. You will be asked to remove anything metallic (jewelry, eyeglasses, watches, etc.) and change into a hospital gown if your clothing has metal zippers, snaps, hooks, etc. Your personal belongings will be stored in a secure locker during your scan. The technologist will then accompany you to the scanning room and help you get situated on the table. During the scan, you will lie on the padded table on your back with a cushion under your knees. The cushion helps take the pressure off your lower back and allows you to be more comfortable. You will also be offered earplugs or earphones to listen to music during the scan. You can choose from a variety of CDs, which we have here, a digital music channel, or bring your own CD.

The table then lifts up and slides into a tube-like cylinder that is flared, wider on both ends. It NEVER closes. It is open the whole time on both ends. There is a fan and a light inside. You typically go in headfirst with your head near one opening.


If you look above, you can clearly see out one end. If you look down towards your feet, you will easily see out the other end. More than likely the lower part of your body is out of the scanner altogether.

Alternatively, if we perform an MRI of your foot, knee, or leg, you would go in feet first and your head is outside the scanner. Most often, however, the best imaging is obtained by going in headfirst. Either way, the technologist will be able to see you throughout the entire scan and will talk with you over the headphone/intercom system. Although it is important that you are able to lie still for about 30-45 minutes, the scan is actually divided into numerous sessions ranging from one minute to 6-8 minutes in length. In between these sessions, it is okay to move about a little bit while remaining in the same position on the table. During the picture taking, you will hear a repetitive knocking noise. Nothing moves or touches you and you will not feel any discomfort-it's just noisy. The headset with music helps muffle this. The technologist will talk to you over the headset intercom and let you know when they will start each group of pictures and how long they will last. Ask the technician to adjust the volume of the earphones if needed. Basically, when you hear the noise, lay as still as you can so the technologist can get very clear images for the doctor to read. Motion during this time will blur the images. When it is quiet between pictures, you will need to remain in the same position on the table, but it is okay to stretch or move your arms or legs until the next sequence begins. Again, the technologist will tell you before they start each set of pictures.

Sometimes, patients are nervous about the MRI or uncomfortable with the thought of being on their back for that amount of time. We do have several options available to you.

The first and easiest is that many patients find it relaxing to simply have a cool washcloth over their forehead or eyes during the procedure. Thus, they can lie back and relax. Believe it or not, some people even fall asleep due to the repetitive hypnotic knocking noise.


If you feel it might be helpful, you may ask to bring a family member or friend into the scanning room with you. Many people feel it comforting just knowing someone else is right there at their side.

Some patients would like a mild sedative prior to their study. Your doctor can send a prescription to the pharmacy of your choice to pick up. The sedation should be taken approximately one hour prior to your study in order for it to be effective at the time of the scan. You should also have someone drive you home as the side effects differ per person.

Some patients ask, "If I am unable to complete my scan without sedation, can I then take the sedation and try again?" Unfortunately, that is not an option as it takes about an hour for the sedation to take effect and there may be patients scheduled after you.

Another option may be our HIGH-FIELD OPEN scanner at our Lombardi location. It enables us to obtain high-resolution MR images for virtually any patient, including children and those who are claustrophobic or obese. Click here for more information on our open scanner.

Your doctor and our schedulers will help you determine which scanner is the best for you. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we are here to help you understand and comfortably complete your procedure. We are there with you the whole time during the scan. The technologist can see you and talk to you throughout the scan. You can be taken out of the scanner at any point if you feel you cannot continue. Just be sure to communicate your concerns to the pre-registration secretary when you call to go through the screening questions and also with the technologist at the time of your scan. We want your MR scanning procedure to be a comfortable, pleasant experience and we're here to make that happen.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please call (800) 353-4674 and ask for pre-registration. Alternatively, you may dial (920) 431-7124 and press extension #3 for pre-registration. One of our pre-registration specialists will take the time to address all of your concerns.


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