MRI Claustrophobia: How to Help Anxious Patients


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The technological medical advances that society has made in the past few decades is astounding, and it’s brought us equipment and machinery we could’ve never imagined. Despite all of the progress this equipment has allowed us to make, it can appear a bit intimidating, especially to those who don’t understand it.

Intimidation is exactly the feeling that those with anxiety related to claustrophobia feel when they are faced with the idea of needing a CAT scan or MRI. Both of these machines, although extremely helpful, can be terrifying to patients with a fear of enclosed spaces.

Unfortunately, many patients that need MRIs do have this fear, but don’t worry, there are ways that you can help them through. Here are ways to help patients overcome MRI Claustrophobia:

Is an open MRI an option?
If the individual’s fears are due to being closed in, consider an open MRI scan. Of course, there are limitations to this, such as whether or not your facility has access to this equipment.

Ask the patient if they have questions.
The individual may be scared to ask questions for fear of sounding silly, but encourage questions nonetheless. The freedom to ask questions about the process, equipment, etc. can help calm nerves in those that are scared of the MRI scan.

Help the patient understand the machine.
If you know that the MRI will be a source of anxiety, ask the patient if they’d like to come in beforehand to see the machine. Walk them through what happens during an MRI, and simply explain the way the machine works, and of course, why it’s important for their health. Understanding the equipment and the process will help it seem a little less scary.

If the patient expresses concerns, ask them to speak to their physician about medication.
While many people don’t want to take medication for anxiety caused by a phobia daily, many people will speak to their physician about medication for a specific event. This might include flying on a plane, or in this situation, an MRI scan. Although, most anxiety medications are prescribed by a physician, so the individual will have to prepare for this prior to coming in for their scan.

Allow the individual to listen to music.
As if feeling enclosed and being made to lie still for what seems like eternity isn’t bad enough, MRIs are LOUD. Allow the patient to choose a genre of music that they can listen to during their scan to help cover up the noise and reduce anxiety.

Try aromatherapy.
Some facilities will try to infuse the room, or the MRI pillow with a light scent (lavender, vanilla, etc), because they claim this helps with the individual’s nerves during the MRI.

Advise the patient to close their eyes.
Closing their eyes, mixed with a distraction like music, can help the individual imagine that they are not really closed, and some individuals may even doze off for a few minutes, allowing them to relax.

Sometimes it’s impossible for patients to avoid MRIs altogether. Whether its due to an injury or illness, MRI scans are simply necessary at times. With these tips in mind, the experience doesn’t have to be frightening or anxiety-inducing, even in claustrophobic patients!

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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