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Mri & claustrophobia

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ItStillHurts posted 11/30/2013 10:23 AM

I have tried and failed and will soon be trying again. The tips I had before were a cloth across the eyes and ear plugs. Has anyone else overcome their fears and finished the test? The wait list for an anaesthetist assisted mri is over a year here. Thanks, ISH

StrongerOne posted 11/30/2013 11:10 AM

ISH, hugs! My DS has MRIs several times a year. Here are some things you can do
-- see if they have headphones or buds to pipe in music.
-- get really good earplugs. You are still going to hear stuff because it's just really loud, and you will feel it. But good earplugs can help deaden the noise.
-- make sure you wear comfy warm clothes and sox. It's cold!
-- they should give you a panic button on a cable if you are panicking or distressed.
-- have someone go in with you and sit next to you. I give my son a foot rub while he's in the tube. Be sure your person has earplugs and warm clothes. Pick someone who is calm and patient.
-- see if you can get a prescription for an anti anxiety med to take before hand. In this case, make sure you have someone to drive you.
-- if you can't get a prescription med, try Benadryl. Again, have someone drive you!

Big hugs. Please let us know how it goes!

FaithFool posted 11/30/2013 11:17 AM

I had a couple many years back and they were challenging.

Depending on the test you may not be able to do deep breathing, which is my go-to calming method.

I kept my eyes screwed shut and tried to manifest strong visualizations of a tranquil tropical beach scene.

Anti anxiety meds might help too. Good luck! You can do this.

AFrayedKnot posted 11/30/2013 11:19 AM

I just had my first one a few weeks ago. The first two or three minutes were the worst. I was in there about 45 min. I closed my eyes the whole time and listened to the music they were playing. I pictured myself laying in my own bed and kept meditative breathing of equal inhales and exhales. By the end I was actually starting to drift to sleep.

Sending thoughts and prayers

GabyBaby posted 11/30/2013 11:40 AM

I completely understand how you feel.
I am horribly claustrophobic. I'm also top heavy, so being on my back with my boobs crushing down do not help that sensation. I feel like I cannot get any air and start to panic within a few seconds.

Unfortunately, I always have to be medicated.
Good luck.

Rainbows posted 11/30/2013 11:40 AM

I told the ordering dr. that I'm really claustrophobic beforehand and he ordered a small dose of anti-anxiety medication for me. He gave me specific instructions on timing the dose so it would likely peak at the right time.

I also brought really good eyeshades and had someone rub my feet while in the tube. Headphones and/or earplugs help a lot, too, but it's noisy either way.

Focused, deep breathing going in also helped calm me down during the initial panic phase.

tushnurse posted 11/30/2013 12:31 PM

Have someone drive you get some Ativan or Xanax an dose up ahead of time. You can also take a Benadryl to make you sleepy. Just remember to keep telling yourself that even though you are freaking that they aren't going to let you get trapped and no one is going to leave you I'm there.

Just like childbirth it's going to be really uncomfortable but there's an end and It's only an hour. You can do it.

ItStillHurts posted 11/30/2013 13:14 PM

Thank you so much for your replies.

H did accompany me as far as the waiting room last time. Hopefully, they will let him in to rub my feet. That sounds wonderfully reassuring and comforting.

I will try the meds, the dr just left a message for the next appointment so when I confirm, I Will get something.

I used deep breathing to deliver my babies years ago so hopefully if I do not lose my mind again, I can rely on focussing on a good memory and my breathing to stop the panic before it sets in.

What should I wear? The last time I wore the hospital special - the backless gown and housecoat. And I felt trapped.

Does the fact it is a contrast mri change anything?

And, I regret not acknowledging this to myself before now. I think the claustrophobia panic fully consumed me, right from the time my doctor asked me if I was claustrophobic.

If I edit, it will be for typos.

[This message edited by ItStillHurts at 5:25 PM, November 30th (Saturday)]

AFrayedKnot posted 11/30/2013 13:33 PM

Does the fact it is a contrast mri change anything?

I had with and without contrast. The first 35 min were without. After that they pulled me out, put in an injection of contrast, and sent me back in for another 10 min.

welcome14 posted 11/30/2013 13:48 PM

I am horribly claustrophobic, and was screaming in two seconds when I had my first MRI (it was a very, very small machine). They had to reschedule me to a hospital with an open MRI, which made it so much better, I actually fell asleep. Do they not have something like that where you are? Maybe your doctor can tell you more info...good luck!

Nature_Girl posted 11/30/2013 14:15 PM

You need an open MRI. I can't do the closed one if my upper body has to go in. Think "Rainman" claustrophobic. Not happening.

Open MRI, sister.

As for the contrast thing, I don't know if it's the same dye as for a contrast CT, something I had a few years ago. My experience for that is at the very end there was an extreme rush of heat & "sensation" in my private parts. For a moment it was like a white hot mix of peeing my pants and The Big O. Totally bizarre, but they told me also totally normal.

SI Staff posted 11/30/2013 15:01 PM


Please keep OT infidelity free.


purplejacket4 posted 11/30/2013 15:18 PM

If there is one do an open air MRI. If not have your doc triple the dose he gave last time.

StrongerOne posted 11/30/2013 15:28 PM

Contrast dye -- they'll set up for an IV before you go in, run a set of tests in the mRI machine, pull you out -- you will need to stay still while they do this -- inject the dye, roll you back in, run more of the scans. Usually this second part is shorter.

You should not have any trouble having someone there in the room with you. That person will have to fill out a form. I do this every two to four months with my son, and lots of adults have someone go in with them too.

Will you see your doc immediately after for the results, or do you have to wait?

And hoping that all is well with you. Having to have an MRI and not knowing what will be the result is nerve wracking. Big hugs to you!

HeartStings posted 11/30/2013 15:39 PM

You've already been given good advice. I'd say the two most important are:

1. Big dose of anti-anxiety medication

2. Having your H touch your leg or your foot the entire time

HurtButHopeful? posted 11/30/2013 17:41 PM

A few weeks back I went in for one. As soon as I was inside the tube I began to panic, and asked them to get me out. Had they not done it immediately, I would have started screaming from terror. I was so embarrassed.

They had to reschedule me, and prescribe me a couple of Valium tranquilizers to take an hour before the MRI which took 1/2 hour. Even with those I was anxious, but I was able to finish the test.

If you have to go this route, make sure you have a driver.

Hope all goes well.

ItStillHurts posted 11/30/2013 20:29 PM

Thank more question. If he had metal scraped from his eyes before, will he be allowed in the MRI room with me? ISH

StrongerOne posted 12/1/2013 20:38 PM

Hmm, not sure. They do ask about metal in your body. Call the lab or clinic that you will be going to to find out. You might line up someone with no metal in them just in case. Needs to be someone without a pacemaker, also. Maybe the clinic has the form online for you to look at?

osxgirl posted 12/4/2013 16:12 PM

I have mild claustrophobia. Or at least, that's what I USED to think I had, until I had to get an MRI.

Nope. It's severe. Very severe.

It doesn't help that I am too big (fat) for a regular MRI, so even the bigger MRIs and the open ones are kind of small for me.

Also, as I found out, how you react partly depends on if you really have claustrophobia or not. What do I mean by that? Well, I actually have something that is grouped in with claustrophobia - cleithrophobia. It isn't the confined space in and of itself that bothers me. It's the fact that I know I can't just get up and move whenever I want. I can (and have) been closed up in a coffin before (in high school - haunted house!) I had no problem with that because I could lift the lid whenever I wanted, and the person with me in the room was someone I trusted who would never have held down the lid or allowed anyone else to do so. If someone had held down the lid, I would have lost it and been unable to go back in (probably even with the lid off!)

So this means that even with the open MRI, I have a real problem. No matter what, I KNOW, I can't just sit up and move. It's not possible - at least not until someone else removes me from the machine. I know I'm not in control of whether I can move or not, and that's what causes the panic.

I recently had to get a CAT scan of my heart, and it was touch and go. I did get through it, but just barely. I had everyone telling me that I'd be fine, because the CAT scan has more room than an MRI, and it's narrower, so it covers a much smaller part of your body. Most times, your head ends up outside the machine on the other side.

It was just as bad as the MRI for me. In some ways, worse. The test required that halfway through they give me meds through an IV. They warned me ahead of time that I might feel like I was having trouble breathing with the meds (even though they don't really affect your breathing). I did, I panicked, and I wanted out. The tech with me while I was doing the test talked me through it, and was the only reason I made it through.

So... everyone has given the right suggestions. And an open MRI is definitely better than a regular one. But I would suggest looking at one first, so you know what you will be dealing with. I kept getting assurances that I would have no problem with an open MRI or with the CAT scan, and went unprepared. They were wrong - any of them are MAJOR problems for me.


- As far as what to wear, check with the facility. I know for all of mine, I wore my street clothes. I just made sure that nothing I wore had any metal of any kind. I wore some lounge pants (that are similar to sweats, with no ties, eyelets, or anything like that at the waist), a t-shirt, and a sports bra (the tank top style that goes on over the head, so there are no fasteners on it). If you are in your own comfy clothes, that will help remove some feelings of anxiety. So see if they will allow you to do that.

- Anti-anxiety meds, definitely. My doc gave me Xanax. It helped some - mainly because I don't think I would have even gone in the machine without it. But try them ahead of time if you can, so you know how they affect you. For me, they only had a minimal effect, so I still had some problems.

- I didn't use headphones or earplugs. I couldn't have cared less about the noise, and I needed to be able to hear people talk to me. So this one depends more on what helps you.

- The cloth across the eyes is a must. Even better is an eye mask, such as the kind some people wear at night to keep light out. As I unfortunately found, sometimes the cloth can slip a little. And I had trouble making myself keep my eyes shut when it did. Also, I found that I needed to put the mask on as soon as I got on the table, and not wait until just before they put me in. It might sound a little weird, but having it on as long as possible made it easier for me to "forget" where I was. The longer I had it on, the less I could tell if they had moved me in the machine or not, which made it easier to convince myself I wasn't in it.

- Stress to the tech how bad it is for you. When I got the CAT scan done, the only reason I got through all of it was the tech that was with me. Halfway through, when they gave me the meds and I felt like I was having trouble breathing, I told her I needed out. She was very calming, touched my leg, and did probably the only thing that would have helped - reasoned with me by saying, "Come on, you can do this. You've come this far, and if we take you out, you'll have to start over from the beginning. You don't want to waste all you've already done, right?" Just the thought that I would have to start over again & be in that much longer was enough to help me. And I don't think for me that having my husband in would have helped. His way of handling these things is that he jokes with me - which works well most of the time, but not when I'm starting to panic.

-Finally, do your best as you are going in to make sure you don't touch the machine at all. I was supposed to get an MRI on my back at one point. That didn't happen, and likely won't unless they put me completely under. Even with the open MRI, when they went to do the one on my back, they put something over my midsection - some sort of foam padding. With that, I just barely fit in the MRI, so I could feel the top of it pushing down on me. With that, there was no way I could stay in. I think I stayed in maybe 10 seconds - it seemed like a lot longer, but it may have actually been less! I hit the button for them to take me out basically as soon as they got me in.

I hope some of that helps. Good luck!

Lionne posted 12/4/2013 21:57 PM

I have one every year, breast MRI. Depending on where I go, it's either head first or feet first. I'm ok feet first. But it is cold, I am small, I SWIM in their paper gowns, so I take my warm robe that opens in the front. I look less silly than I would if I were hanging out, exposed in the paper things.
But I would definitely do antianxiety meds and open MRI if you can.

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