Closed vs Open MRIs

What is a MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is a type of 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 is in the MRI scanner, the hydrogen ions in the body all orient themselves to align with the magnetic field to produce images. Contrast media is also often used during MRI scans to help physicians view the images better.

What is an open MRI?

An open MRI is an MRI machine that is open on all four sides. These machines are helpful for individuals who are claustrophobic and feel uncomfortable entering a closed MRI machine. The patient is still required to lay down as movement will disturb the images, however, the machine is open at their head, feet and at both of their sides. 

What is a closed MRI?

A closed MRI is the typical donut/ring-shaped MRI machine. They are the most common type of MRI machines used in hospitals and clinics. These machines are closed on both sides as well as from above you. These machines can also be loud, however, most places offer ear plugs to make the scan more comfortable. 

Which is better?

While an open MRI machine may sound like the more comfortable option, it does not produce the best images due to the magnetic field being weaker. Closed MRI machines offer more clear and more detailed images. With higher quality images in a shorter amount of time MRI scans done in a closed MRI machine are preferred.

Ways to relieve anxiety

Since closed MRIs 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.

Physicians can prescribe patients an anti-anxiety medication for the scan that can be taken 30 minutes before the scan begins. However, individuals taking mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications for the scan cannot drive afterwards. Other methods to relieve stress during the scan include wearing earplugs, participating in breathing exercises, listening to music, and wearing comfortable clothing.

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