Claustrophobia increases when MRI scan is involved

Claustrophobia is the fear of small or confined spaces.

People who experience claustrophobia have side effects ranging from feeling overly warm to experiencing a panic attack, or even feeling like they are being suffocated. In general, it evokes intense feelings of anxiety, and often the feeling of losing control.

There is not an agreed-upon cause for claustrophobia, and it is classified as an irrational fear. However, it is relatively common: the NHS states that an average of 10% of UK citizens are claustrophobic. A small number of these people ever receive treatment for the disorder.


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The NHS states:

“If you have felt anxious during the last six months about being in a confined space or crowded place, or if you have avoided confined spaces and crowded places for this reason, it is likely that you are affected by claustrophobia.”

One study claimed that between 4-20% of patients who are recommended for an MRI scan refuse to go through with it due to claustrophobic fears. The figure was lower in a more recent study, which found that 1.22% of patients chose to prematurely terminate the examination.

According to the same study, of all MRI recipients, 37% experienced claustrophobic fear. Another report resulted in 13% of patients experiencing a panic attack during an MRI procedure.

A traditional MRI scan, which typically takes between 20 and 60 minutes, involves laying inside a tightly enclosed tube. Partaking in a traditional MRI scan is commonly associated with causing claustrophobic feelings, so people who feel anxious when thinking about a future MRI scan should not feel alone.

At Newcastle Clinic, we have chosen to offer an Open MRI scanner to patients, which means we can cater to those who experience claustrophobia. If you have been recommended for an MRI, it is easy to get a referral to our facilities owing to your claustrophobic fears – speak to your referrer and explain your issues, or read how to get a referral.