How to Ensure Patient Comfort During an MRI Scan

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Many people are nervous about the MRI scanner because of the enclosed space. Some patients are allowed a friend or family member to stay with them while they are being scanned. However, they must also follow the same guidelines to remove any metal zippers, fasteners, buttons, underwire (bras) and belts.

Preparation

While an MRI may be a new experience for many people, there are many ways to prepare and feel comfortable during the scan. Before the procedure, individuals should make sure to communicate their feelings to the radiologist. They can discuss the option of an open MRI machine, a light sedative or other measures that will help ease discomfort or anxiety. In addition, it is important to dress appropriately for the MRI scan. This means wearing loose, comfortable clothes that are free of metal that can interfere with the MRI machine’s function.

Once an individual is ready to start the scan, they will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any clothing with metal. This includes zippers, snaps, buttons and even some bra underwires. A radiologist will then lead the person into the room that houses the MRI machine. It looks like a long, metal tube with a hole at one end where the table slides into. The radiologist will talk to the patient through an intercom throughout the procedure, which will be used to help ensure patient safety.

During the scan, the radiologist will ask the patient to lie very still while the images are being taken. Depending on the body part being scanned, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. While this isn’t always easy for claustrophobic people, it is important to try and stay calm and not move. Movement can affect the results of the MRI and cause distortion.

In order to keep patients comfortable, the radiologist will often provide a blanket or pillow to lay on. If they are able to, they will also allow the patient to listen to music with headphones during the scan. This can distract them from the knocking sounds that occur while the MRI pictures are being taken.

Finally, it is a good idea to bring or wear an eye mask. This will help to block out any bright lights and further distract the patient from feeling trapped in a small space. If a patient is claustrophobic, they should also consider covering their face with a towel or washcloth to avoid being bothered by any sudden movements.

Noise Reduction

The loud humming noise of the scanner can be intimidating for some patients. It can also interfere with their ability to hear instructions from the radiographer during the scan, especially for elderly and hearing-impaired patients. This can lead to stress and frustration, not to mention the possibility of retakes and potentially less-than-ideal images due to motion artifacts.

A patient’s first visual impression of the scanner can also trigger a claustrophobic reaction, even before they actually enter it. For example, the closed design of older generation scanners with their relatively narrow and long bores can be a significant source of anxiety. It is therefore essential to consider how a patient’s experience of lying in the bore can be optimized for their comfort.

The good news is that numerous methods have been explored and implemented to mitigate the effects of MRI scanner noise on a patient’s experience. Quieter technologies can attenuate the acoustic noise levels, and a number of scan sequences that are compatible with free breathing have also been developed.

These approaches, combined with other coping strategies such as relaxation techniques and stress management tools, can help to reduce the effects of apprehension and improve overall scan quality. Clear communication with patients about what they can expect from the MRI procedure and what measures are in place to ensure their safety can also reduce anxiety.

One option that is available at some MRI facilities, known as In-Bore MRI Cinema, offers patients an immersive virtual environment to help them relax and feel more comfortable during the exam. During the scan, music is played through headphones to provide an audio distraction and reduce the humming noise of the scanner.

In-Bore MRI Cinema is not available at all facilities, but it’s worth looking into to see if you can offer this innovative, cost-effective solution to your patients. It may well be the key to helping them overcome their fears and avert the financial and clinical costs associated with retakes and unusable scans caused by claustrophobia. By providing a visually and audibly relaxing experience, In-Bore MRI Cinema can also help to increase MRI patient acceptance rates and boost department efficiency.

Comfortable Positioning

MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce clear images of soft tissue, organs, muscles, joints, and other internal structures. These images can help physicians diagnose injuries or illnesses and plan treatment plans. For many patients, however, an MRI scan can be an uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing experience. A variety of factors can contribute to this, including the unfamiliar setting, the loud knocking noises made by the scanner, and anxiety about claustrophobia. This is why it is important to keep in mind strategies and tips to ensure patient comfort during an MRI scan.

When preparing for an MRI, including a Breast MRI, it is important to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that will not interfere with the scan. It is also a good idea to remove any metal items from your body before the study, including zippers, snaps, and buttons. For some studies, it may be necessary to fast for a period of time before the exam, so make sure you check with your doctor to find out the proper protocol.

Once you enter the MRI room, a technologist will ask you to lie down on the exam table. The specific positioning depends on which part of the body is being scanned. If the lower part of the body is being examined, for example, you will go into the machine feet first, and then your head will be positioned in the opening. If the upper part of your body is being scanned, you will be asked to lie down on the table with your head facing the opening.

The MRI noise can be disturbing for some patients, but it is nothing to worry about. These noises are caused by the MRI scanning process, and they will stop once the scan is over. Most imaging centers will provide you with earplugs or headphones to help reduce the noise. Some will even allow you to listen to music or podcasts, which can take your attention away from the feeling of being trapped in a small space.

It is important to communicate with your MRI team throughout the scan, so they know whether you are comfortable or not. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, it is best to let your team know immediately so they can offer solutions and reposition you if needed.

Communication

Patients who suffer from claustrophobia can have trouble during an MRI scan because of the tightness of the machine and the feeling of being trapped. To help combat claustrophobia, it is important for healthcare providers to communicate with the patient throughout the process. By doing so, the patient will know what to expect and can relax during the scan.

During the scanning process, it is vital for the patient to remain still as any movement could cause the images to be blurred. This can be difficult for some patients, especially when the radiographer asks them to hold their breath for short periods of time during the scan.

To help the patient, a headset can be provided that will allow them to listen to music or relaxation noises through headphones. Some patients also choose to have a friend or family member in the room with them to provide comfort. Patients who are claustrophobic can request a sedative to be given during the scan. If a patient chooses to have a sedative, they will need someone to drive them home as the medication can make them dizzy.

Once the MRI scan begins, the patient will hear thumping noises as the magnet moves within the scanner. The sound is normal and can be distracting for some patients. If the patient does not feel comfortable with this, they can let the radiographer know by pressing a call button that is located on the wall. The radiographer can then come out of the scanner and talk to the patient so they are not alone in the dark tunnel.

In addition, the radiographer can answer any questions or concerns that the patient has as they go through the procedure. They can even offer a distraction such as an interesting book or magazine to read to help them focus on something else during the scan. They can also explain what the MRI is and what it will show them so that they do not have any surprises. Patients can take a deep breath and try to imagine that the procedure will be over soon, as this will help them calm down and stay relaxed.