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Fear of MRI
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Fear of MRI

Hello - I am a 26-year-old female and I recently saw my primary physician because I've had spells of numbness and tingling in my left arm and left leg. She suggsted I have lab work done and go for an MRI because it sounded like it could be MS. My lab work came back fine. I went to have the MRI and was prescribed Valium 10 mg. because of being nervous and claustrophobic. Well, the Valium didn't work, and when I found out I had to be in the tube for at least 45 minutes and almost all of the way in, I panicked and couldn't do it. Plus the stuff that they strapped around my head and face bothered me. I don't know what to do. I have a neurology appointment at the end of the month, but I'm afraid he will say my only option is to have the MRI and I just can't do it unless they were to knock me out. Any other ways this can be dealt with?
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Avatar_f_tn
There are "open" MRI's but I have heard they are not as accurate.  
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi.

It might be best for you to consult a psychologist or therapist first to help you deal with you claustrophobia before undergoing the MRI.

An MRI, although not diagnostic in itself, could provide important findings that would help or rule out a diagnosis of MS, which is why it has to be done.

Hope this helps.
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Avatar_f_tn
Yes, I have heard of the open MRI's as well and how they aren't as helpful. I just know I cannot do it though. There is no way I can lay there for that long almost all the way inside of a tube. I don't know what to do. I care about what's wrong with me, but I just wish there was another way to do it. I already deal with an anxiety disorder and have for many years now, so this is especially difficult. Thanks for your responses.
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Avatar_n_tn
I had 10 mg of valium as well - it did not do much for me either - I would see uabout upping the dosage and maybe do a trial run to see how it affects you before you go in for another MRI - I would call both an open MRI and closed MRI place and ask them about the effectiveness, I had an open one myself and it is so much better if you are clausterphobic - the open ones do work other wise they would not be offered
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354359_tn?1196914517
....Following an epidural. I sustained nerve damage.....my left leg was paralyzed.... with electrical pulses firing every two seconds. The doctors decided to knock me  out for an MRI.  It is the way to go if you cannot stay still and have problems being in the tube. Like you, I needed to be still for the MRI to be performed.
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Avatar_f_tn
i too am claustrophobic. after a trial run, after trying with valium also, i still couldnt do it. so they referred me to an open mri. it was so awesome-course i had to have my hubby within my direct line of site at all times . thats how paranoid i am. but yeah, it works wonders. the images are also very professional. do an open one. you need the mri. let us know how you do. thanks.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi.

I still believe an MRI is essential to helping arrive at a diagnosis in your case. However, if you are not amenable to visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist to help you with your claustrophobia, it might be best to undergo an open MRI.

While a few have said that the open MRI was not as accurate as the closed one, it is, however, not 'inaccurate', and would still prove invaluable in the diagnostic process.

Hope this helps with your decision.
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144586_tn?1284669764
Yes. The trick is to close your eyes BEFORE you go into the tube and NOT to open them until after the MRI is over and you have been rolled out of the tube. While your eyes are closed imagine yourself somewheres else.
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Avatar_f_tn
You all are so helpful - I didn't know if I'd get any responses or how many or how quick and this has just been so helpful to me. I see the neurologist on 12/21 so I'll see what he thinks too. I haven't seen a neurologist yet, only my medical doctor, so it will be interesting. Any other thoughts are appreciated, as I'm so nervous. Thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
Well I went to have my first MRI yesterday too. I thought I was not claustrophobic as I LIKE being in tiny places. But this was an entirely different thing. I could not breathe. I did not know to keep my eyes closed as I was not forewarned about ANYTHING, though I did a small bit of research on the Web about what an MRI was, and thought, heck I can handle this!
I did close my eyes automatically when they stuffed me in, but the second I opened them the primal beast in me came out and I was literally trying to claw my way out. I was so scared and terrified NOTHING could calm me down, and also, humiliated and embarrassed when I got out.

They showed me the open MRI and I know I could not stay there for 45 mins ...not even for 5 minutes. They said they would give me medication, and my first thought was that I would be too medicated to be able to get out of there and be in slow motion fear...I may need mental counseling on this, but I tell you, I prefer to suffer with my rotator cuff problem the rest of my life than ever get into an MRI again, thats the level of fear I went to. I am still sick to my stomach just thinking about it. For those of you who can handle MRI's please understand that I am pretty confident, independent, and strong minded and willed, but this turned me into a crazed wild eyed maniac that I could not control.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi Lynners - I went through with my MRI on January 18th and I have wonderful news on how I was able to do it and how you can too...IV sedation!  It was absolutely wonderful.  I didn't think it would work (as I have never been sedated) and it worked perfectly.  I barely remember a thing!  I remember lying on the table before they put me in the tube, but I don't remember them putting me in the tube at all.  I thought I remember opening my eyes when I was in it and saying I needed more of what they had given me, but that's all I remember about the tube.  It worked perfectly and I highly recommend it.  It's so worth it.  Good luck!
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi Jennifer, I did find the forum! Thank you for the message. I just will re-post what I said to you. I found an MRI that you can SIT and watch TV. It does not go over your head. It is not covered by my insurance, but I would rather pay $895 then EVER go into that thing, on IV or not. You would have to sneak up on me with the IV and not tell me I was going there just to prepare me. That is how badly I am scarred from my bad experience. Like I told you in email, I took the time and effort to call my MRI place and tell them that now that I have done a lot of research on how to treat ANYONE who goes for the first time for an MRI. The administrator I talked to told me because of our conversation she will talk to ALL staff including doctors. I thought that was very good of her, but it still will not get me back into that facility. It is like a huge nightmare that I never ever want to experience again. I don't WANT to be claustrophobic, stubborn, or unrealistic, but I thought I was going to have a heart attack, going to heave, and going to die all at once. I guess thats what they mean by claustrophobic!
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Avatar_n_tn
I completely understand how u feel about the MRI's I have  MS and have to get one about every 6mo. As a matter of fact I went in to have one done today and freaked out so bad that they said I was kicking like a 3 year old. It was an open MRI I was all the way in and I raised my hand and it touched the top and that was it, they were great about it and rescheduled until I can get some valium to keep me calm, hope it works or else I feel the same as u I will just live with the pain. I have had several done and each time it just gets worse, I am so embarrased i started crying because I was so humiliated. They told me that claustrophobia was a true illness and that it wasn't my fault. I think there's something truly wrong with me and I need someone to dig deep into my brain! lol. But like u I thought I could do it, boy was I wrong.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi - that's exactly why I had my MRI done with IV sedation. They used what is called Versed. It worked perfect. I highly recommend it if you can have it done there or else somewhere nearby. I had to travel an hour and half to where mine could be done with it, but it was so worth it. I don't even remember being in the tube really and if I did, I didn't care because the claustrophobia wasn't even an issue being sedated. And you come out of the sedation feeling totally fine, just a little loopy. How long have you had MS? I might have it. I'm still waiting on the results of my MRI. Have you had a spinal tap?
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Avatar_n_tn
MRI IS NOT EASY WHEN YOU HAVE FEAR. I WAS A RECK FOR 1 WEEK BEFORE IT. I WENT TODAY AND I GOT THOUGH IT FINE VALIUM WAS NOT HELPFUL ITS GOOD ONLY IF YOU TAKE IT 15 MINUTES BEFORE YOU GO INTO THAT TUBE. BUT I WILL SAY THAT THEY HAVE SHORTER MRI MACHINES AND THEY ARE ALSO BIGGER BY 4 INCHES ON THE INSIDE. YOU NEED TO ASK WHERE YOU ARE GOING IF THEY OFFER THE CLOSED MRI WITH THE SHORT BORE BELIEVE ME IT WORKED AND IM REAL BAD GOOD LUCK TO ALL WHO HAVE TO GO THROUGH IT. YOU CAN DO IT  THINK POSITIVE
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Avatar_m_tn
I have created a website with some free information about MRI's.  Many people have found it very helpful.  www.NoFearMRI.com.  Good luck!
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Avatar_n_tn
I freaked out after going into the tube, before the test even started.  We tried it again with a washcloth over my eyes, but I had another anxiety attack.  I have never felt claustrophobic before.  It was embarrassing, although they told me it happens to a lot of people.

So, they rescheduled me to get the test done with sedation.  I had to bring my husband to drive me home.  I was absolutely terrified the medicine wouldn't work (they gave me 2 mg of Xanax).  But, I waited about 40 minutes after taking the pills and from then on it was so much better.  Here are my suggestions:

1.  Take the drugs! Bring someone to drive you home.
2.  Do not under any circumstances open your eyes once you lie down.  It is easy to keep them closed when you're drugged.  
3.  Ask if your spouse or friend can come into the room with you.  I kept my arms above my head, which was one of the choices offered.  My husband held my hand the whole time.  I tapped out the rhythm of the noises as it went along, until finally, I just relaxed to the point of almost sleeping.
4.  There is a slight breeze that blows over you the whole time.  I just visualized myself laying on the beach at night looking up at the dark sky (eyes still closed) with the breeze on my face.  
5.  I had a pelvic MRI, so I was able to move my head, meaning when one ear had enough of the noise, I just rolled my head to the other side.
6. Ask if you can put a pillow behind your knees.  It is very comfortable that way.

Seriously, with God's grace, some Xanax, and my hubby there to comfort me, it was so much better.

Take care...
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Avatar_n_tn
I , too, struggle with MRI fear. I've had 3 so far. My most recent one was today. I had dreaded it for about three weeks ! I also have a fear of new medications/medication in general so my main panic was about the contrast they were going to give me (fear of allergic reaction or side effects). My procedure today was VERY lengthy, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Brain, neck, MRA, MRV. At first when they put me in I got really nauseous from fear and I was breathing really fast. I have a fear of being stuck or left alone and unable to get out,too.

Here is what helped me more than anything...

1. If you are religious, pray. Pray that God will go into the "lions den" with you and make that big lion purr like a little kitten. Remember He never leaves you! I tried imagining God looking down on me and watching over me. Kept saying "God is in the Lions den with me,and the Lions cannot hurt me!". (Daniel and the Lions den from the Bible).

2. Make sure the techs give you a mirror so that you can see out of the tube. I could see the countdown clock for each set of images they were doing. I HAVE to keep my eyes open. It's just me.

3. Ask the techs to maintain communication with you before each set of images, after, and tell you how long each set will take. This was VERY comforting and I could literally watch the timer count down each and every test.

4. Ask for a panic button. I had mine, and it never left the grip of my hand.

5. Take a loved one with you and make sure they can be in the room and holding your leg or hand.

6. Ask about the medications they will be giving you (dye,etc) ask what the procedure is in case of an allergic reaction. I did !!! I made SURE they would be able to treat me if I had a reaction.

7. Play mental games with yourself. What was the happiest day of my life............the funniest moment in my life........my favorite vacation.......the best movie I've ever seen........what are some great jokes .......count backwards from 100 to 1.........sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall.....how many nursery rhymes can I remember from my childhood.........where do I want to go eat when I get out of here.............etc.

8. Deep breathing techniques. In through nose , out through mouth.

9. Pillows under knees, blankets.

10. Sounds stupid, but make up stuff about the knocks, bangs, and buzzing sounds you hear. Hmmm that sounds like a hammer hitting a block of wood, oooo that one sounds like a bull frog, that one sounds like a jack hammer busting concrete, count the buzzes and knocks, make up a rhyme to them. At one point I was thinking/chanting "I hate this thing" over and over to the buzzes. Ha!
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Avatar_m_tn
i just got diagnosed with breast cancer, i recently went through an MRI and now they found more issues wrong in my breast. the first was enough, only because i thought that the doc would find the problem and surgery it, now that theres more i don't think i can handle another MRI. I too, my body got really hot and my heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my body, until i pysched myself out and meditated, i told my husband i would prefer them to cut onside off rather then going through that again.hopefully not but i don't think i can handle another one first impressions. true i guess i have a fear problem in tight places, i guess because the length of time i was in there which were about 40 min. thanks for the sharing, perhaps it will take a miracle.
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Avatar_m_tn
I had an MRI yesterday.  Thankfully I had not read any of this before the MRI or I would of cancelled. I am afraid of closed places. I didn't know for sure what to expect. When I got there and saw the tube I was very anxious. My first time in, I had my eyes open and freaked out...she pulled me out and started calming me down. She talked and described everything to me, she gave me a wash cloth for my eyes, she promised she would be close by and she would talk to me, letting me know how much longer each scan would take.
I suggest that you be really relaxed, think happy thoughts, do not open your eyes at all, tell your tech. to talk you through it...3 more minutes, 2 more minutes...for each scan.  Well I did it, I made it through 45 minutes in the tube.  I was so proud of myself when it was over...Good Luck everyone...remember trust God too.  I actually counted seconds and pretended I was laying on a beach.  Dont open your eyes not for a single second. Close them before they slide you in. Do not open again until you are out. Good Luck
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Avatar_m_tn
I had an MRI yesterday.  Thankfully I had not read any of this before the MRI or I would of cancelled. I am afraid of closed places. I didn't know for sure what to expect. When I got there and saw the tube I was very anxious. My first time in, I had my eyes open and freaked out...she pulled me out and started calming me down. She talked and described everything to me, she gave me a wash cloth for my eyes, she promised she would be close by and she would talk to me, letting me know how much longer each scan would take.
I suggest that you be really relaxed, think happy thoughts, do not open your eyes at all, tell your tech. to talk you through it...3 more minutes, 2 more minutes...for each scan.  Well I did it, I made it through 45 minutes in the tube.  I was so proud of myself when it was over...Good Luck everyone...remember trust God too.  I actually counted seconds and pretended I was laying on a beach.  Dont open your eyes not for a single second. Close them before they slide you in. Do not open again until you are out. Good Luck
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Avatar_m_tn
hi im having the same thing done iv sed im so scared .
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Avatar_f_tn
Lynners, ive just ben for my first MRI scan this morning, as doc thinks i have a slipped disc causing a trapped nerve and numbness in my arn and hand anad severe constant pain, off work for over a  month.. i thought i would be fine, l lay down and the guy there was great explained everything ad was reallt nice, as soon as i was in the tube, i felt like someone was sitting on my chest, i couldnt breath and really panics telling him to get me out wuick, we tried a few times even walking round the machine then moving to a bigger one, but to no avail, i have never been so scared or felt so stupid, the nurse said more people cant do it than can, so its back to doctor to try sedation, i just hope it works, i didnt think i suffered from claustraphobia boy was i wrong, i just hope i can over come the fear and get better,
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Avatar_f_tn
my MRI was yesterday. i thought i could deal with it, having seen one friend take a peaceful rest in the machine last year and trying not to listen to the "uptight" folks who freaked. well... two seconds and 15 inches inside, i freaked out! holey moley!! instant panic attack. dammit! i gave myself the severe gotta-do-it talk, talked the technician into letting me try feet first, put a towel over my clenched eyes and tried again. i had the squeeze bulb in my hand, knowing that i could press it anytime, just trying to get through another 2 seconds at a time and control my breathing, slow it down.... within the confines of my head, i sang, counted, recited poetry, visualized, counted breaths, made lists, pretended that the noise was me getting beamed up to the starship enterprise, told the image that popped up of my 20 years now deceased father that "i'm just not ready yet" (but we did have a nice chat where we both appreciated my sense of humor because, hello! the reality was that i was very unlikely to die in an MRI and i needed one badly), breathed some more: 8 counts in, 8 counts out, did some more math (that I wasn't very good at), swam more laps in my visualized pond, filled in the details of the farm, the house, my clothes closet, my old high school, friend's faces, animals I have loved, saw myself in a tube in a machine, in a room, in a building, in a city, on a planet in a solar system, acknowledged the fact that the reality was that i was PERFECTLY SAFE, etc.... then I repeated... switched techniques every few seconds or did multiple ones at the same time. whatever got me through a few more seconds.... it was serious brain overload on adrenalin, while i felt like my body was in a state of paralysis under the order of "don't move a muscle!" (or you will have to do this again!) and lo and behold, I GOT MYSELF THROUGH IT!!!! i couldn't believe the 30 minutes were up and she was letting me back out saying "we're all done!" WOW! i then shook and cried a little and felt weak and dizzy and shaky, and it took me about 8 hours to have it sink in that I DID IT! yes, i freaked, i had a panic attack and i managed it on no meds! WHOOHOO!
next time? (NO THANK YOU!) if i had to have one, i would skip the caffeine, take the drugs, (a nice fat dose of valium would be great), take a little lavender and orange essential oils on a cotton ball,and bring some good eyeshades, and maybe let someone guide me into the room even. having a friend hold my foot would be a nice touch. at first, i thought, "i'm NEVER doing that again!" but just 24 hours later, i might even be able to go head first if i had to. if i could do it, there is a great chance that you could too. good luck!
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