Reducing claustrophobia during an open MRI scan

It’s been estimated that around of one third of the British population is claustrophobic, but when it comes to MRI scans, it’s a different story. More than half of people who have had an MRI in a standard, enclosed scanner said it ‘made them feel very nervous’ and a further 13 per cent of patients simply could not make it through the procedure.

The ‘tunnel’ MRI has a tube that is 60cm wide and is very loud: a frightening environment for the average person. An open MRI, on the other hand, is more than double the width, has no enclosed tube and is quieter, making it much less stressful than a standard MRI.

However, many patients have already had a traumatic experience with MRI when they are finally referred to the open scanner. The idea of trying to have an MRI after panicking in a standard scanner makes even the open MRI daunting for some.

tips for claustrophobic mri

Here are some ideas for remaining calm during an open MRI scan, courtesy of feedback from patients via our social media channels:


  • Do some research. Request to view the open MRI scanner in advance of your appointment so you know what to expect. Newcastle Clinic is happy to let patients have a look beforehand as it can help ease anxiety. You can also preview the open scanner in our online photo and video gallery as well as speaking to past patients via our Facebook page where many people visit to get advice and feedback.

  • Bring someone along to your appointment. Unlike many hospitals, Newcastle Clinic allows patients to have a family member or friend attend the appointment with them. Your companion can sit with you the entire time, holding your hand, speaking to you and helping keep you calm and distracted.
  • Keep your eyes closed or even wear a blindfold. Many people say this was the trick that helped them manage their claustrophobic feelings throughout the MRI scan. It’s much easier in an open MRI it’s wider than a standard scanner, so patients shouldn’t feel any walls touching them. The open MRI is also quieter so it’s not as overwhelming.
  • This may seem silly but it’s important, and we often remind patients before and during the scan to breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths can actually make a big difference and keep those anxious feelings at bay. Use this to practice:


  • Bring a CD so you can listen to music of your choice during the scan. There are also a number of CDs available at the clinic that you can choose from.
  • Request a sedative if you feel it would help. Your GP or consultant can arrange you to have a sedative for your MRI appointment if you feel it would help you avoid a panic attack.

Past patients and others who have experienced MRI scans have offered further advice, support and feedback in this Facebook post:

Contact us if you have any concerns about your upcoming MRI scan.

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