MRI – Keeping calm and relaxed in the tunnel

MRI scanners and, in particular, how to cope with them, is t hat concerns many people as they prepare to be scanned.

mriGoing into the scanner’s tunnel can be intimidating in advance and frightening when inside. Never mind that it is open at both ends, the closeness of the tunnel can soon put your brain in overdrive. You can worry about the nearness of the tunnel and about getting out.

Anyone who, like me, has multiple sclerosis will have to cope with MRI scans, perhaps every few months. Does it get easier? For some, yes. But not for all.

People who experience claustrophobia might never get used to the enclosed MRI scanner but the good news is that there are now ‘open’ MRI machines that give the person being scanned a feeling of openness and can reduces stress. However, open scanners are not available everywhere,

My own experience has been limited to the more traditional closed scanners.

To see or not to see

Operators of these machines sometimes place a mirror so that the patient can see out of the tunnel. That may help alleviate the concerns of some but not all as they still see out via the tunnel. Others may prefer to close their eyes and practice relaxation techniques to help keep themselves calm and peaceful.

The Maximov centre in Moscow.

My most recent MRI scan took place almost nine months ago during a short stay at the AA Maximov centre that provides haematopoietic (hematopoietic = American spelling) stem cell transplantation (HSCT) in Moscow.

There, I felt totally at ease when I was slid into the tunnel. As there was no mirror, instead of looking at the tunnel’s ‘ceiling’ only a few inches away I chose to close my eyes and ignore what was going on around me.

Now MRIs are not the quietest machines in the world, as anyone who has been scanned, can tell you. But my relaxation was so effective that I fell asleep. I tuned out the noises of the scanner, drifted off to sleep only to wake myself up by snoring. And not just once.

MRI noise

Why are MRI scanners so noisy?  The California Institute of Technology explains: “An MRI is noisy because its magnetic field is created by running electrical current through a coiled wire—an electromagnet. When the current is switched on, there is an outward force all along the coil. And because the magnetic field is so strong, the force on the coil is very large.

“When the current is switched on, the force on the coil goes from zero to huge in just milliseconds, causing the coil to expand slightly, which makes a loud “click.” When the MRI is making an image, the current is switched on and off rapidly. The result is a rapid-fire clicking noise, which is amplified by the enclosed space in which the patient lies.”

Somehow, despite all that noise, I managed to enter the world of dreams three times during more than an hour in the machine. It seems I was relaxed.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


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