Survey results: MRI experiences

One of our aims as a clinic offering an open MRI scanner is to ensure that patients are comfortable throughout their scan. This is especially important for patients who are claustrophobic, overweight, obese, of large build, frail or in pain.

In order to better understand how patients react to MRI scans, we have conducted a poll on social media to receive more feedback on patients’ experiences with both closed and open MRI scans. This research is helping us to consistently offer excellent MRI facilities and services and to generate public knowledge about MRI. By creating a conversation about the MRI experience, we hope that more people can be aware of what to expect when anticipating an upcoming MRI exam.

Here’s an overview of the feedback we received:

Closed MRI scans 

About 85 per cent of people who have had an MRI scan had to endure a scan in a standard enclosed MRI scanner. The feedback, in general, included:

  • There was a general consensus of feeling claustrophobic inside the ‘tube’ MRI.
  • Comments focused on the loud noise the machine produced. Overall, people discussed the negative effect that the noise had on their experience and that it increased their anxiety levels.
  • A variety of respondents mentioned that they could not fit into the traditional scanner, with some describing the feeling of being too enclosed or having their shoulders or chest squished into the machine.
  • Some patients discussed the experience of taking sedatives in advance of going into the enclosed scanner to aide their anxiety.

Open MRI scans 

Around 10 per cent of people had been in the open MRI scanner. The comments surrounding this experience included:

  • A number of patients said they refused to go into a traditional scanner, as they were aware of how claustrophobic it would make them.
  • Many expressed pride and gratitude for the fact that they were able to complete the scan and receive valuable diagnostic imaging results in relation to their injury or illness.

Both closed and open scans

A further estimated 5 per cent of patients responded saying that they’ve had an MRI in both closed and open scanners.

  • Many of the stories told involved having a panic attack during their first attempt in the standard scanner.
  • These patients often remarked that after having their first MRI experience in an enclosed scanner, they refused to do so again and requested an open MRI instead.

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Advice for staying calm through an MRI scan

This poll also offered insight into the ways that patients coped during an MRI scan. Here are some factors that helped patients remain calm, and some ideas for how to relax during an MRI scan:

  • A majority of people chose to keep their eyes closed throughout the duration of the MRI scan. Many said that because they couldn’t see around them, they didn’t experience claustrophobic feelings. Some even requested to have something placed over their eyes so that they wouldn’t be tempted to have a look around once the scan began.
  • It was also clear that having music playing, noise-cancelling headphones or a person to speak to helped keep them distracted during the exam.
  • Others felt relieved to feel a cool draught on their face during the MRI.
  • Many comments also praised the staff. Patients who received an explanation of the procedure and knew what to expect seemed more likely to have a positive experience. Staff who were empathetic and patient also helped many patients relax and have a successful MRI.
  • People who were able to have a friend or family member with them during the MRI also were more likely to find the experience satisfactory.


We’d love to continue hearing your feedback and suggestions about the MRI patient experience! Please get in touch on Facebook or Twitter or leave a comment below.