Why is the High-field Open MRI so good for claustrophobics?

Whether it’s elevators, airplanes, tunnels, or MRIs, anxiety can make many want to bolt. Boston University’s Dr. Todd Farchione of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders says that feeling of claustrophobia is probably tied in with a loss of control. “It’s that feeling that I can’t just get up and walk out when I want to walk out,” he explains.

Even for a radiologist like CDI’s Dr. Joel Newman, who has a job reading images from MRIs, claustrophobia is a very real fear. Even though he knows exactly how the exams work, he says they still induce fear. “It’s about control, I think. In a tube you look out and all you see are the walls of the tube.” Dr. Newman says the exception to that rule is the High-field Open MRI.

Many patients who can’t get through a traditional MRI scan have success in an Open MRI. Rosanna Chiodo is one of them. She brought her husband with her to hold her hand through the exam – something that’s only possible in an Open MRI because of the unique design. With a good dose of willpower and her husband’s helping hand, Rosanna swallowed her fears and finished her scan. “I just had in my mind I have to do this. There’s no way. I have to do it.”

Determination alone won’t do it for some patients. That’s where experienced technologists like Derek Cicchetti of CDI in Dedham, MA come in. He helps calm his patients by telling them step-by-step what will happen next. “If they get scared in the middle then we have what I call the get-me-outta-here button,” Derek explains. “It’s an emergency call button they can push. Then we’ll stop the test and talk to them right away. If they need to come out, they can come out.”

Of the dozens of scans Derek performs each week, he estimates that only 1-2% of his patients quit before the exam is complete. But even if you can’t finish your MRI, Dr. Farchione says don’t give up. “There is help for it. I want people to know that they don’t have to give up on it. If they try to get an MRI and they can’t do it, we’ll reschedule and try again. If they can’t do it again, maybe they go seek help for it.”