Closed vs Open MRIs

Closed MRI vs Open MRI: What is better?

August, 2022 - Last update: July, 2024

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is an imaging scan that uses magnets and radio waves to create a magnetic field to produce images. They produce accurate and detailed images to help physicians diagnose and treat their patients. MRIs do not use harmful or damaging radiation.

The body has natural magnetic properties due to the abundance of hydrogen in water and fats within the body. When the body enters the MRI scanner, hydrogen ions align with the magnetic field to create images. Physicians can use contrast media during scans to enhance their ability to view the results better.

Closed vs Open MRIs
Closed vs Open MRIs

What is an open MRI?

An open MRI is open on all four sides, making it ideal for individuals who are claustrophobic or uncomfortable in a closed machine. Patients still need to lie down without moving to ensure clear images. The machine remains open at the head, feet, and sides, providing a less confined experience.

What is a closed MRI?

A closed MRI machine resembles a typical donut or ring shape and is the most common type used in hospitals and clinics. These machines enclose the patient on both sides and from above. Most places provide earplugs to enhance comfort during the scan, despite the potential for loud noise.

Which is better?

While an open machine may seem more comfortable, it compromises image quality due to its weaker magnetic field. Closed machines, which offer clearer and more detailed images, are preferred for their higher quality and efficiency in shorter scan times.

Ways to relieve anxiety

Since closed machines are better for diagnosing purposes, physicians may recommend their patients have their scan done in a closed MRI. For claustrophobic individuals, there are ways to relieve anxiety while in the machine.

Patients can receive a prescription for anti-anxiety medication from physicians, which they can take 30 minutes before the scan starts. However, individuals who take mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications for the scan cannot drive afterward. Other stress-relieving methods during the scan include using earplugs, engaging in breathing exercises, listening to music, and wearing comfortable clothing.

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