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British Lung Foundation
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MRI scan

I have been told that because of steroids my back and bones are in a bad state. Constant back ache in my lower back walking standing is so so painful. I'm on morphine patches for pain. My question is I have to have MRI scan done for my lower back and I'm very clostaphobic. Is your head out of the scanner? I've been told I can get a sedation from my doc. Please help. Hope you are all ok take care.

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Hi Patj

Iv'e had to have around 4/5 MRI's and yes unfortunately you have to have you head in the machine, however, it's not as bad as a lot of people (like yourself) believe it to be.

It takes around 20 min and a good idea is to ask them for headphone as it drowns out the Banging!

If your that scared and closterfobic then they can in fact give you a light sedation which will make it a lot easier for you.

Hope it goes OK !!

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Yes, I’m afraid that your head is inside. I thoroughly sympathise with your feelings. I am a large person and the only way I could fit in was by holding my arms across my body and gripping my hands together. To do this for quite a long time was difficult and I felt more claustrophobic than usual. The doctor can give you something and also you should be able to take some music or recorded book to listen to whilst inside. In addition there is a button to press if things get too bad. The operators are very kind and understanding so do tell them your fears. Also, when you get your letter re the MRI they ask if you are claustrophobic. There is a possibility that you could have access to a wide bore or open bore MRI. The wide bore is a much larger hole and open bore is a room so you son’t Go inside anything, but these are few and far between, sadly.


Hi Patj.

Hope you are well.

I have experience of the Butrans transdermal 20 micrograms/hour patches that needed changing once a week.

The body can build up a resistance to them like I experienced, but for a slow release alternative there is long tec.

This is a 12 hrs slow release morphine tablet.

You may need an anti sickness tablet if your experiencing nausea.

The MRI scan will no doubt be including your head unfortunately.

I also suffered terrible panic whilst in the scanner, but the staff are amazing and as soon as you feel you need out press the buzzer that will be in your hand at all times during the scan.

Hope this helps.they can also give you a eye mask and ear plugs use these as they do help.


I had a lower back mri but I genuinely can't remember if I had my head in or not. I'd suggest ringing the staff as it's usually Alliance medical working within the hospital and explain. I don't think you can go in feet first as the table moves in and out while the machine takes pictures. Have you not had a bone density scan which is a dexa scan much easier.

I was like the other person overweight and nose practically touching the circle and hands across my chest. It's not pleasant but I kept my eyes tight shut and thought of the nicest pictures of the beach and sea and desert islands paradise.

If you are that claustrophobic I'd ask your GP for sedation but they'll only give you valium in low dose. Nytol for sleep is a sedative antihistamine which could have similar effects as long as you are accompanied. I've been prescribed morphine, then they stopped it and had to beg but I can't take more than 5mls which is 10mg for itching die to severe eczema.

Oh if your on morphine patches if they make you tired the antihistamines or valium if the GP prescribes this could enhance effects of Morphine.

I'd have a chat with the GP also the staff at the mri unit. Yes all for ear phones or tales ear plugs. Good luck. Remember it's only 15/20minutes x


Hi I had the MRI scan for my back and leg pain I only had the bottom part of the body scanned it was an open ended scanner hope this helps


You can request Open MRI - Takes lot longer - But your head will not be in MRI machine.

Lot of places have Open MRI - Try to google it !

And Good Luck !


Hi, I am also claustrophobic and have had MRI scans. It took me a while to go in as your head is inside an MRI scanner and not a CAT scan, which is like a doughnut. The NHS here asks you to take your favourite music along so it does help to have calming music. I asked for my wife to be at the end as I went in and she stroked my legs to help me stay calm. It did work very well. I am on LARGE doses of morphine and fentanyl. NOw what I will say is that morphine over a long period has not helped me as I know it has made any fears worse! It does effect everyone differently as I take x4 800mcg's of fentanyl and 100mg zomporph a day!

Meditate as you listen to the music and do this before you go there and you will be able to get in the mind set to help you. Meditation is very good for all humans but especially if you have pain and fears. I managed to do it and I know you will do to. If you can, before you go there put a piece of music that you love and that helps you relax. Meditate, meditate meditate really helps. There is plenty of papers on this subject that states it helps in so many ways. Good luck

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I'm afraid most mri are head first, they don't usually do sedation because if anything where to happen it takes a long time to get you out of the machine and treat you. Sorry I can't be of more 😣


Hi Patj,

I too am horribly claustrophobic but I've had several MRI scans, one fairly recently. I worried in advance even though I knew what to expect. However, it was actually OK. The staff are really kind & I just closed my eyes the whole time and listened to the headphones and didn't dwell on where I was. I think what made it bearable for me is knowing that there is a 'panic button' so you are not 'trapped' but remaining there of your own free will for the good of your health. Hope this helps.


Thank you so very much for all your helpful replies. I really appreciate it. I think I will see my doc for something and hope it all turns out well. I was told it took 40 - 45 mins to do the scan. Take care

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hi Patj I am sorry I do not get on here . yes like every has said unfortunutly your head is in all the way . I am having a MRI in October because they think I have MS so I asked for something to help me get through the test and not jump out of skin maybe your doctor would give you something . Good luck I hope all goes well.


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