MRI worries


I have just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both hips, but one is pretty bad and I am told it already needs replacement surgery. It has all been so sudden that I am struggling to get my head round it. The 'assessment' yesterday was done at breakneck speed and there was no time to discuss what the process involved, pros and cons or other options and even the questions I did ask he could not or would not answer. Not even sure what medical specialism he was as he did not even introduce himself!

My first question is re MRI - Im quite claustrophobic and worry about having to be totally enclosed in the dark for a long period. But am I worrying unnecessarily - if it is just my hip might only the lower half of my body be in the machine.


8 Replies

  • When I had my mri scan I had similar worries. The machine used was more of a hoop shape than a tunnel and so large that it wasn't claustrophobic at all. It also turned out that as they were scanning my kidneys, only the lower half of my body went through anyway.

    Consultants are sometimes really busy and can seem a bit dismissive but I find that if I share my worries they are really good at understanding as they have had so many others with those same worries that they always take them seriously and often put your mind at rest on the spot. I find this approach cuts out any long term worries that niggle me before my next appointment.

    Hope it all goes well for you.


  • First the MRI... The good news is that it's not dark - the tube is open and the entrance is only a metre or so away from your face, and it's light and you can see out :) The bad news is, usually you have to go into MRIs head first, so probably you'll be in it from head to thigh or knee. I'm claustrophobic too, and I didn't like it, but I could tolerate it. The worst thing, I found, was the noise: they are very, VERY noisy (it made me think of alarms going off and machines about to explode!) but the second time, when I knew about it, that was much less scary... Some people get a Tamazepam/Valium from their doctor if they're very scared, so that might be an option for you too...

    I identify with your description of how fast and shocking it was - I was diagnosed when I moved house and changed doctors, and suddenly went from being told I was imagining things to being told I needed a hip replacement. It took a while to get my head round things - in fact I'd say I didn't really completely believe it until it happened! After surgery, I found two great online forums, and wished I'd found them pre-op - they're a specific replacement forum called Bonesmart and a great, friendly, lively Facebook group called Total Hip Replacement Forum. You'll get all sorts of info and support there :)

    You may find you get more info from your hospital too. I had the initial assessment with the consultant, which was fast and didn't give me a chance to ask questions. Then there was something they called 'joint school', which was a 2 hour class run by a nurse and a physio, giving lots of info, checking or arranging your equipment at home, and plenty of time for questions. Then there was a 'pre-surgical assessment' a couple of weeks before, which did all the testing and measuring, but was also another chance to ask questions. Hopefully you'll get at least one of those... Good luck! :)

  • I asked my GP for a low dose of Valium whcih kept me calm for the two MRIs I have had. You are still within the tube even if it's just the hips but it doesn't take as long. I hate them but having your own music for the spaces inbetween the noise helps. I panicked with a head MRI when my head had to be clamped in a cage and after that the body ones seemed not too bad. Sedation does help so do ask about it if you think you will panic and perhaps have to come out. Its very expensive to run an MRI so of course having to stop one is not a good move.

    You will be fine.


  • Thank you so much. Your replies have been very helpful. As flow4 said, I was told that nothing was wrong and not even examined until it was in need of replacement. It just seems so hard to work out how to get into the system, I am not yet sure whether I am ready for an op, but do need someone to talk it through with me.

  • You're welcome. How bad is it? How limited has your mobility become?

  • That sounds very disconcerting, would be for me. I'm sorry that happened. I have had both hips replaced with very good results. Please know that you don't have to have any surgery just because your doctor says so! It's your choice, and should be based on how much pain and disability you have, and how important it is to you to change that. Also on your risks based on age & other health conditions. There is a lot of info online on joint replacement and I urge you to take advantage of that. You might want to go back to your doctor with your questions (writing them down helps) or message him/her online if you have that option. A second opinion would also be a good idea if you aren't comfortable with the answers. I would not want to have ANY surgery until I felt all my questions had been answered satisfactorily and I felt comfortable with the decision and knew my surgeon well and was satisfied with his/her qualifications and that I could be comfortable working with him/her, because it's a team effort. Good luck to you whatever you decide.

  • I have never had MRI for OA, but have had a number for other conditions. I don't have a big problem with claustrophobia, but some of those machines could make anyone claustrophobic! I just close my eyes so I don't see what a narrow space I'm in, and do deep belly breathing, which is very calming and relaxing. I have not had to have medication. At the hospital where I have had them, the staff people are very aware that patients may have anxieties, as it is not a pleasant test. That in itself is very helpful to me. Plus they tell me I can stop the test at any time if I need to, and the give me a button to hold in case I need to signal to stop the test. Just knowing that I can stop at any time helps me to get through it, because I don't feel that I am being forced or pressured. Also the machine plays a recording to tell me how much time I have left until the end, so that's not a worry.

    Yes the newer machines are much more open, and even the older ones are not dark inside. For me, the noise is the worst part, sounds like someone banging on plumbing or low frequency vibrations, very loud, but again, it's knowing I am doing it by choice to help improve my health, that gets me through it. You can let the tech know of your concerns (they will probably ask anyway.)

  • As others have said extremely noisy but usually you are allowed to have your own music on si choose something upbeat to drown out the noise 60's work best. If it gets too much remember you will be in communication with them so you can ask them to stop if needs be. Think of it as a means to an end. Good luck.x

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