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Instructions to receive an MRI

The instructions to receive an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, are typically comfortingly straightforward: relax and remain still. While the latter can be challenging for anyone, the former can, to some patients, seem like a challenge too large to overcome.

If you suffer from claustrophobia, you’re far from alone. Around 11% of Americans share your fear of enclosed spaces. The design of an MRI unit with its cylindrical bore can understandably make claustrophobic patients feel anxious.

Whether your level of discomfort is incapacitating or mild, there is still good news. Proven self-help techniques and treatment options can help you navigate situations you previously thought impossible. If your doctor has determined these images are crucial to your care, we are here to help you follow through with the exam while conquering your fears.

Empower yourself: Learn everything about the exam

First of all, let’s look at what the exam entails. The more you know, the better prepared you will be. Knowledge is empowering and has a way of easing any concerns. Some of the things that you worry about may turn out not to be true.

A modern, traditional MRI machine does feature a tunnel, but it’s open on both sides, well-lit, and wider than what you may have seen in the past. An experienced technician will first make sure you are comfortable (Would you like a pillow and a blanket? What kind of music or radio channel would you like to listen to, if any?) and explain the exam step by step. Have any last-minute questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to ask.

During the exam, your technician will be in a room next-door but in constant touch to guide you through the procedure. You may be told to breathe in, to hold your breath for a moment, and to exhale. Other than the occasional banging noise, you will feel no bodily sensation from the magnetic field and radio waves that capture the high-resolution images of your internal organs.

The noise, a loud clicking or banging sound, is created when an electric current is sent through a coiled wire or electromagnet. It’s a normal part of the procedure and only lasts for short periods of time during the 20-30-minute-long exam.

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