Anyone manage to have an MRI despite panicking?

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Frankie

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I was supposed to have an MRI this past Tuesday. I did go to the appointment, but I had a meltdown as they were moving me into that little MRI tube - hyperventilating, shaking, panicking, crying. I couldn't do it, so I have to reschedule (and probably get billed for both appointments). My God is it cramped in those things! I don't know if all MRI machines are made like the one I was briefly in, but at first all I noticed was the larger opening at the front end, and I thought I would be fine. I didn't realize or wasn't paying attention to the fact that after maybe 18 inches, the opening becomes significantly smaller. The "ceiling" of the tube was maybe two or three inches away from my nose, and I felt like I couldn't breathe. Seriously, there's probably more room inside of a coffin. My entire body had to go into the smaller tube because they need to align my abdomen (the area being imaged) with the "camera" in the middle of the tube. If only my head didn't have to go in, then it wouldn't be a problem. I'm not sure how they fit larger folks in these machines - I'm about 200 lbs and it didn't feel like there was much room to spare.

I cannot spend 20-25 minutes in this contraption! I can't even imagine what it would be like once they turn on the magnets with the loud noises and banging (they give you earplugs, but still). They attempted to put an eye mask on me, which kind of helped (I couldn't open my eyes and see the top of the tube two inches in front of my face) and didn't help (I felt "smothered" and helpless) all at the same time. I'm going to have to ask my psychiatrist for a sedative. I hear they give some folks Valium, but Valium does next to nothing for me. Maybe Ativan or Xanax would be better? I've never had Xanax and I don't remember what the Ativan was like when I had it. They said I could have someone in the room with me because there's no radiation or anything like a CT scan. I wonder if they'd let my boyfriend hold my hands while I'm in the machine - I have to keep my arms outstretched over my head anyway, so he'd be able to reach them. I really need to have this dreaded MRI. A CT scan would be better than nothing, but an MRI would be superior considering what needs to be looked at in my abdomen. I know open MRIs exist, but I was told the images aren't as clear. I guess I should call my doctor.

So, anyone have any stories of having overcome an MRI panic attack? (I was told the techs have folks who climb out of the machine in the middle of the imaging process! I know I'm not alone.)
 

tonynyc

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I've had an MRI on two occassions- shoulder was being imaged. It takes some getting use to being in avery confined place.

Thankfully there are places now that do open MRI- I found this place in NYC-
I cannot vouch for them -but, you might want to check them out next time... OR if the Dr. has an alternative place to go to

Dove Open MRI -East Manhattan Diagnostic Imaging PC

http://www.doveopenmri.com/airis_ii_mri_scanner.html
 

moore2me

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Frankie,

I sympathize with your claustrophobia in that closed MRI. I have done the same thing and walked out of the test room refusing to even start a scan.
However, I have had several since then using an open MRI. The open MRI is more like you are being slid under a short legged card table. In answer to your other questions:

  • No, probably your boyfriend will not be able to hold your hand (unless it is your feet only going in). However, he could stand by you & provide moral support.

  • Call who ordered the MRI for you and tell them you need to be scheduled in an open MRI. At the same time, tell them you need some tranquilizers to calm you way down for your next trip. Tell the nurse that Xanax doesn't work on you and you need a better tranquilizer. (Believe me, if you get the right happy drugs in you, the 30-45 minute scan will seem like a ride a Disneyland.) However, if using happy drugs, they will not let you drive home - you must have a ride or a driver.
  • The face mask is also required nowadays. It does several things in that it keeps your head fairly still, microphones are in it, and it is useful for more accurate brain scans. Just think of it as a fighter pilot's face mask and pretend you are on a space mission.
 
S

saucywench

I had an MRI this afternoon, I think the first full-bodied MRI I've had in about 20 years.

Although I knew what to expect, I took a muscle relaxer in advance so I wouldn't get any cramps, and just so I would be more relaxed. It's very difficult to remain still for that length of time, and during the first one I had all those years ago I got a leg cramp and they had to pull me out and start again.

I'm about 270 and didn't have any issues about the snugness of the machine. I kept my arms to my side and kept my eyes closed. The vent that blew cool air on my head helped. After they dismissed me and I dressed, they called me back in to take another image. I got on an older machine that was a little louder, and was given earplugs. No problems, really. I don't know anything about a face mask, none was ever mentioned or offered. I think that would have enhanced a claustrophobic feeling rather than help, and I am used to a face mask, as I wear a mask with my CPAP.

If you suffer from claustrophobic feelings while undergoing an MRI, I would definitely recommend taking anti-anxiety medication or a muscle relaxer prior to going in. And just keep your eyes closed. The procedure can actually be somewhat relaxing (kind of like being in a tanning bed) if you just try to remain calm and go with the flow.
 

Frankie

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Thanks for the link. If I can have an open MRI (I've yet to speak with my doc), I'll check out this place.

I've had an MRI on two occassions- shoulder was being imaged. It takes some getting use to being in avery confined place.

Thankfully there are places now that do open MRI- I found this place in NYC-
I cannot vouch for them -but, you might want to check them out next time... OR if the Dr. has an alternative place to go to

Dove Open MRI -East Manhattan Diagnostic Imaging PC

http://www.doveopenmri.com/airis_ii_mri_scanner.html
 

Frankie

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Thanks for your response. I'm kind of dubious that I'll be able to have an open MRI since the images it produces are not as clear.

My psychiatrist said if I have to ave the closed MRI, I should ask my doctor for intravenous Valium since it works quickly and is easier to administer more as I need it. If it works well, maybe I won't want to get out of the MRI!

No worries about the face mask; I don't need one (it's my abdomen that needs to be imaged). What they put on me was an eye mask so I couldn't open my eyes and flip out by seeing the small space around me.


Frankie,

I sympathize with your claustrophobia in that closed MRI. I have done the same thing and walked out of the test room refusing to even start a scan.
However, I have had several since then using an open MRI. The open MRI is more like you are being slid under a short legged card table. In answer to your other questions:

  • No, probably your boyfriend will not be able to hold your hand (unless it is your feet only going in). However, he could stand by you & provide moral support.

  • Call who ordered the MRI for you and tell them you need to be scheduled in an open MRI. At the same time, tell them you need some tranquilizers to calm you way down for your next trip. Tell the nurse that Xanax doesn't work on you and you need a better tranquilizer. (Believe me, if you get the right happy drugs in you, the 30-45 minute scan will seem like a ride a Disneyland.) However, if using happy drugs, they will not let you drive home - you must have a ride or a driver.
  • The face mask is also required nowadays. It does several things in that it keeps your head fairly still, microphones are in it, and it is useful for more accurate brain scans. Just think of it as a fighter pilot's face mask and pretend you are on a space mission.
 

Frankie

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My hat's off to you for getting through a full body MRI. Did they put straps all over you to hold you down and make sure you were keeping still? I think that was another problem for me, having a big old strap tied tightly across my belly. I was tied down, blindfolded with the eye mask, and trapped! I'm a wuss about lots of medical procedures, and being in the MRI was just terrifying to me.

I hope your MRI results will be all clear.


I had an MRI this afternoon, I think the first full-bodied MRI I've had in about 20 years.

Although I knew what to expect, I took a muscle relaxer in advance so I wouldn't get any cramps, and just so I would be more relaxed. It's very difficult to remain still for that length of time, and during the first one I had all those years ago I got a leg cramp and they had to pull me out and start again.

I'm about 270 and didn't have any issues about the snugness of the machine. I kept my arms to my side and kept my eyes closed. The vent that blew cool air on my head helped. After they dismissed me and I dressed, they called me back in to take another image. I got on an older machine that was a little louder, and was given earplugs. No problems, really. I don't know anything about a face mask, none was ever mentioned or offered. I think that would have enhanced a claustrophobic feeling rather than help, and I am used to a face mask, as I wear a mask with my CPAP.

If you suffer from claustrophobic feelings while undergoing an MRI, I would definitely recommend taking anti-anxiety medication or a muscle relaxer prior to going in. And just keep your eyes closed. The procedure can actually be somewhat relaxing (kind of like being in a tanning bed) if you just try to remain calm and go with the flow.
 

comperic2003

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I have never understood why anyone would freak out during an MRI. Sure, the machine is very confined, but the whole procedure is performed in a very controlled setting. I can understand being freaked to find yourself crawling through a tunnel, with 2 inches or room on either side of you, and 100,000 tons worth of earth bearing down on you, but an MRI?
 

AnnMarie

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I have never understood why anyone would freak out during an MRI.
Because they have claustrophobic feelings and are trapped in a tiny tube.

I think if you don't have those feelings (I don't) it's hard to imagine what they are going through, but it seems easy enough to understand (I do) why they would be freaking out.
 

Shosh

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Hi Frankie,

I am sorry that you had to experience panic like that. I have to have annual MRI scans, and I had two in June.
The brain takes 30 mins, and I also had to have a seperate scan of the entire length of my spinal cord which took an hour.

I am a claustrophobic and I panic, so I find if I take a Xanax 30 mins prior to the MRI I cope better, although it is still hard.

I really hear you regarding how it feels. It is like being in a coffin in the dark and they put a cage over your face. It is stressful.

Xanax or Valium can help.

Poor Frankie.:(
 

Shosh

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I have never understood why anyone would freak out during an MRI. Sure, the machine is very confined, but the whole procedure is performed in a very controlled setting. I can understand being freaked to find yourself crawling through a tunnel, with 2 inches or room on either side of you, and 100,000 tons worth of earth bearing down on you, but an MRI?
Having an MRI is a very stressful procedure for some. Some people find it harder to cope than others. I am one of those people.

We should not have to feel badly because we experience panic. I need to take medication to be able to cope with having a scan, and that is ok.
 

LalaCity

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I have never understood why anyone would freak out during an MRI. Sure, the machine is very confined, but the whole procedure is performed in a very controlled setting. I can understand being freaked to find yourself crawling through a tunnel, with 2 inches or room on either side of you, and 100,000 tons worth of earth bearing down on you, but an MRI?
I take it from what posts of yours I've read that you are either in the medical field or or studying to enter the field. I don't mean to sound strident and I hope this won't be taken as harsh criticism, but I think it behooves you to try to understand the reasons people experience fear in these situations.

Aside from the phobia some have about close spaces, there is also the issue of anxiety over one's health. Feeling uncertain and, perhaps, helpless about a medical condition is something most of us go through at some point in our lives -- if you haven't yet you likely someday will. Being able to empathize with this emotion is, in my opinion, critical to being a good health care provider. I just felt it needed to be said.
 
S

saucywench

No straps were used to hold me still, although on the second go-round he had to dress the table rather quickly from the previous patient, so he used some kind of strapping tape to draw up the dangling sheet. I guess that served two purposes: to keep the loose sheet from getting caught in the machinery and to help keep me--at least my right arm--pinned close to my side.

The procedure was not without problems, in the long run. After enduring over three months of chronic lower (oftentimes severe) back pain, then a couple of weeks of feeling pretty good, the act of lying still on my back for a long(ish) period of time on a hard surface provoked the pain again.

My PCP sent me the results yesterday:

Impression: Moderate multilevel degenerative changes are seen, especially the lower lumbar spine. There appear to be postsurgical changes on the left at the L5 S1 level with some scar about the left L5 nerve root. There are prominent abnormal changes at the L5 S1 disc space and adjacent bone in the vertebral bodies. This likely represents severe degenerative changes of …. Infection cannot be definitely excluded. Comparison with old films would be helpful.


Not exactly good news, but it helps just to have information on what's going on back there. (Apparently the transcriber couldn't make out a word or phrase, hence my insertion of an ellipsis.) My take on the results is that (1) degeneration has naturally occurred as a result of aging and perhaps other factors (weight, lack of muscle-strengthening exercises, etc.); (2) scar tissue from the previous surgery is aggravating nerve endings in that area; (3) I may have some type of infection in or near my spine.

My PCP sees nothing surgical in the results (he doesn't feel I'm a good candidate for surgery, anyway, and I agree) but has asked me if I want to be referred to an infectious diseases specialist and/or a neurosurgeon for further evaluation, so that's where we are with it at this point.

I hope you're able to resolve your claustrophobia issues to where you can successfully complete the MRI, Frankie. If an MRI is key to a proper diagnosis of your symptoms, you should avail yourself of whatever methods it will take to get you through it. I empathize with your fear, though. Good luck.

My hat's off to you for getting through a full body MRI. Did they put straps all over you to hold you down and make sure you were keeping still? I think that was another problem for me, having a big old strap tied tightly across my belly. I was tied down, blindfolded with the eye mask, and trapped! I'm a wuss about lots of medical procedures, and being in the MRI was just terrifying to me.

I hope your MRI results will be all clear.
 

Red

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I had an MRI early this year, I was very worried before going in thinking I would get wedged in the tube or freak out. They weighed me just before going in which made me panic ever further. I'm pear shaped and around 280lb so on the scales, when the nurse gave me glare and a raised eyebrow I started getting very nervous. I was then asked to change into a gown and remove all jewellery and was then given a list of CD choices to listen to whilst in there. I chose Eurythmics incase anyone was wondering :p

When I shuffled in to the room and clocked the machine I shuddered at the thought of being in such a small space but the nurse (different one to before) put me at ease and got me to lie on the bed. She could see then that because of my shape, lying down flat wasn't really an option for me so she kindly slotted some foam padding under my legs to prop me up a bit, this helped me greatly. I was much calmer and felt pretty comfy at this stage. I rested my head onto the piece that keeps your head from moving about, I wasn't strapped in as such but there was prop to keep me in place, again pretty comfy and not as scary as I'd imagined.

Once fully in the machine I did feel my heart start to race a little as it was so small in there, I felt like I would get stuck. Thankfully the head contraption thingy had a mirror on it that bounces an image of the nurses station directly opposite the machine so I could see that someone was always there behind the glass, I also had a fabulous view of my toes, which distracted me for at lease 5 minutes! I was given a buzzer in my hand to press if I needed to get out quickly which calmed me down too even though I didn't use it, it was good to know it was there. I did get an itchy nose which didn't help much but I tried to do some deep breathing exercises and before I knew it I went off into a little medatative trance. I couldn't really hear any of the music as the machine is so loud when it's moving about. The best way I can describe it is like someone hitting it with a mallet, big dull thuds, lots of clanging and whirring, quite loud but not too scary if you just remind yourself it's meant to be sounding like that. I was in there for about 40mins and although weird it wasn't half as scary as an experience as I'd imagined, but I do have a rather over active, easily stimulated imagination!

I really hope your next appontment goes smoothly, it is scary but its obviously important that you have the procedure and just think of how relieved you'll feel once its all over. Remember to try to breath deeply as that is something that really helped me. Its easy to panic and develop a pattern of shallow breathing when lying flat which wont help you to relax at all.
 

Miss Vickie

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Frankie, honey, Xanax is your friend. If they offer it, take it. If they don't offer it, ask for it. I had to have a full body PET-CT scan which meant lying totally still for 45 minutes. I refused the drugs at first but they pretty much insisted and I said, "Sure, why not. I could use a nap." Oh my gosh, I felt soooo good. I slept through the whole thing and like you I'm really claustrophobia.

When Burtimus had a MRI a few years back, I sat with him in the room. They wouldn't let me touch him but for him having me there relaxed him. Maybe if you heard your sweetie's voice you'd do better.

Also, what about open MRI's? Would that be more comfortable?
 

Kouskous

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I had an MRI when I was about 19. I think i was probably about 230 lbs or so. I had never considered myself claustrophobic until being in the tube. I was feeling the panic set in.The noise was nauseating with the repeating pings and pounding. I felt like I was trapped. I don't know how I did it but I just closed my eyes and took deep breaths. I tried to focus on being anywhere but there.

I would definitely request the drugs if I had to do it again.
 

Frankie

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Thanks, everyone, for your responses.

I still haven't called my doctor, but I better get on it and quit procrastinating. I've never experienced claustrophobia before, so I didn't anticipate the reaction I had. I hope I can get through a second try.
 

Miss Vickie

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Thanks, everyone, for your responses.

I still haven't called my doctor, but I better get on it and quit procrastinating. I've never experienced claustrophobia before, so I didn't anticipate the reaction I had. I hope I can get through a second try.
DO IT, my dear. And ask for Xanax. Serious, it's good shit. And make sure you have your sweetie to both be there with you, and drive you home because you'll be totally loop dee looped.

Don't make me come out there, okay? :D
 

Shosh

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Thanks, everyone, for your responses.

I still haven't called my doctor, but I better get on it and quit procrastinating. I've never experienced claustrophobia before, so I didn't anticipate the reaction I had. I hope I can get through a second try.
Take some Xanax mate. I know exactly how you feel.
 

Shosh

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Well I have to have another MRI of my brain on the morning of New Years Eve. Yay. Just how I want to be spending New Years.:rolleyes:

I shall swallow a fistful of Xanax to be able to cope once again.

Frankie any update? Hope you are well mate.:)
 

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