Coping mechanisms, doctor reassurance help combat MRI claustrophobia

Undergoing an MRI scan can be a dreadful experience for those with claustrophobia—but coping mechanisms and physician reassurance may ease fear and anxiety, according to a recent article from the Washington Post. 

Up to 12 percent of patients who received MRI reported having panic attacks, according to the article. While open MRI scanners offer patients a less confining environment, experts say closed MRI systems are four to five times more powerful and produce higher quality images.  

“There’s a percentage of the population that flat-out will not be able to get an MRI, just because the claustrophobia is so intense,” said Mike Skok, a senior executive at Providian Medical Equipment, an MRI equipment company in Ohio. “So those folks just can’t get scanned.” 

Patrice Mitchell, 64, told the Washington Post about having a fair share of MRI scans during her life to address medical problems and sports-related injuries. Having to manage her claustrophobia while in the MRI machine, she explained that she's tried every trick in the book, including anti-anxiety medication to listening to her favorite music. However, she credits her success to physicians and radiology technicians.  

“It helps overall when you have a nice, kind tech who fosters a soothing atmosphere,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, some are more caring than others, asking you whether you want a blanket or earplugs and keeping up a gentle patter of conversation as they are getting you ready.” 

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