How To Avoid Dreading Your MRI Scan
It can be stressful remaining inside a noisy, cramped MRI machine for 30 to 50 minutes. But there are ways to deal with MRI anxiety.
Many patients experience horrible dread before getting an MRI scan. Then after they get inside the magnet and it starts up like a giant copying machine, they still have to remain motionless inside a confined area while enduring loud, alarming sounds happening all around them for the next 45 minutes. This is enough to give a grown man an anxiety attack, let alone children or animals, who have trouble staying still most of the time.
If the patient starts to move during an MRI scan then it could cause an image artifact. Basically, then the image will be distorted and the doctor cannot diagnose the patient properly. Then may have to go through another MRI procedure, creating even more anxiety. And there will be a lot more stress once the hefty bill gets there because hospitals charge thousands of dollars per MRI scan.
One of the most common ways to cope with extreme stress during an MRI procedure is to just knock them unconscious with anesthesia. That’s what they do at the zoo when an animal needs to have an MRI or CAT scan. However sedatives are prohibitively expensive, and sedation will result in hundreds of dollars added to your hospital bill. Another problem is that some people don’t like using such powerful drugs in any case. For example, it is a bad idea to give a recovering opiate addict a huge dose of anesthesia unless it is an emergency situation.
Do Breathing Exercises
You can do breathing exercises at home, in the waiting room, and even inside the MR suite during the procedure. WebMD recommends taking deep, full breaths, rather than short, shallow breathing. Lie down in a comfortable position, place one hand on the belly and the other on the chest. Concentrate on the rise and fall of your torso as you slowly breathe in and out. You might want to whisper a relaxing mantra as you exhale, such as, “I breathe out stress and tension,” or anything else as long as it’s positive and keeps you from hyperventilating.
If the noise from an MRI machine really bothers you, or if you don’t like loud sounds in general, ask for a pair of MRI-safe earplugs from your provider. If used properly they should reduce the worst part of the noise, although you will likely hear muffled scanning in the background. You might be able to take a nap if the magnetic waves aren’t too bothersome because you will be lying there listening to your own thoughts for almost an hour.
Listen to Music
Research studies have shown that the human brain responds positively when people listen to their favorite kinds of music. So it can be helpful for patients to listen to an audio recording during medical imaging procedures. This is not the best time for death metal, dubstep, or anything that makes you want to jump around and mosh, because it will be difficult to remain in one position. Listen to something more relaxing such as classical music, jazz, experimental techno, or a book on tape read by someone with a very soothing, warm voice. Note that you cannot ever take metal objects inside an MRI room, so you will have to use the non-ferromagnetic headset at the imaging center.
Watch a Video
Some providers have projectors inside their MR suites that play a movie to pass the time during radiologic exams. Another idea is the MRI Visor by Sound Imaging, which creates an immersive, video-watching experience that is like being at the movie theater. The radiologist may let you pick a movie, or suggest a soothing video to watch, such as Quiet Rains, Calming Piano or Whale Songs. This makes the whole scanning process seem easier because it distracts the patient from thinking about the magnetic waves enveloping their entire body.
One day maybe Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) will render MRI machines unnecessary. But for now the best way to get a magnetic resonance image of your insides is through an MRI scanner.