MRI Scan

Has anyone been unable to go through having an MRI Scan done? I tried to have one done twice but on both occasions I had a panic attack and felt very claustrophobic. I am disappointed that it happened as I really need to have a scan done on my lower back, have sciatica and doc wants to see what is causing it, prolapsed disc or wear and tear. I am still in a lot of pain with it. I feel that I ought to try a third time, also staying still for 20 minutes worries me if I get uncomfortable as I also got cervical spondylosis and my back goes into spasm too. So I don't know what to do, should I try to attempt the MRI scan one more time? Any advice would be welcome!

29 Replies

  • When I have had Mri scans they always put supports under my knees to help my back pain whilst lying flat, and it,really helps. I have to say though that when the procedure is finished I am unable to move so the staff always have to help me get to sitting up position then I have to sit for five minutes or so till my giddiness ceases.

    When I am in scanner I pretend I am lying on a beach somewhere with waves splashing me, seems to calm me down. The radiographer talks to me throughout the procedure and asks me if I need a break. Tell your radiographer your fears and your discomforts, I'm sure they will try their best to help xxxx

  • Thank you so much, that sounds like good advice. For the second scan I took two diazepam, one tramadol and just before 2 co-codamal and that still did not take my anxiety away! I think maybe an eye mask might be a good idea. I was quite shocked with how I reacted the first time, they had to get me out of the scan straight away and the second time I would not even try to go inside, I could feel the panic welling up inside me! Thank you Jockety

    for your suggestions above!

  • I so hope you can manage another scan because it really does give a fantastic overview of your spinal problems. Why don't you phone your MRI unit and explain your fears and problems before you even get your appointment, then they will have time to put together a help plan !! A sleep mask sounds a good idea (I always shut my eyes in scanner anyway). Hope you manage a scan, let us know how you get on xxxx

  • Thank you Jockety, that sounds like a good idea!

  • They must scan lots of people and have some sort of plan in place for dealing with this if you tell them first. Can you take a relaxation cd to listen to on the headphones? - although you'll still probably hear the machine.

    Depending on your other drugs/general health your GP might be able to give you a one off dose of an ACE inhibitor. It will limit how fast your heart can beat & without the accelerating heart rate the other physical anxiety symptoms can't get going. They are used a lot for people who are afraid to fly.

  • Music via headphones and the eye mask are great suggestions, friends have told me it worked for them to relax long enough to have the MRI. Cheers Doreen

  • What about hypnosis? You'd probably only need a couple of sessions. Ask your GP if you could get it on NHS. Privately, will vary where you live but anything upward from £30 and upwards for a session.

  • They can give you a sedative if you feel you cannot go through the stress of been in an enclosed place.

    They can also play tapes to divert your attention from the noise, they will also play one of your CD s

    I had a scan done just over two years ago and I listened to music and kept my eyes closed throughout the actual scan. All was over in about 10-15mins and I was back into the car and on my way home in less than half an hour. If you go through sedation it will take most of the morning or aftrnoon to get home and you will need someone to drive you home after the treatment.


  • Thank you all for your suggestions and advice, which are all good. I will speak to my GP and then go on from there. xx

  • Discuss it with your doctor. I usually take diazepam before an MRI to help stop muscle spasms but that can also help people relax as well, so that might be worth asking about. They should also be able to use foam wedges around you to help make it a bit more comfortable.

  • Thank you earth witch. Foam wedges sounds like a good idea.

  • I find focusing on my breathing really helps with the anxiety part of it. I've had multiple MRI's and they freak me out every time. I count while I inhale then count when I exhale, trying to make the exhale longer than the inhale. Anti-anxiety drugs alone don't make it bearable, but focusing on my breathing with something relaxing on board does the trick for me.


  • The best advice I had from a 16 year old who's had loads of MRI done she told me to shut my eyes as soon as possible and don't open them till it's finished so I did and I didn't even know I was in there xx

  • I'm having an MRI this afternoon on my hands with contrast dye. I have had 2 previously, not on hands, but the last one I nearly freaked out before the end. The only thing about today is that because I'm having it on my hands I won't be able to have the buzzer to hold, so how do I alert them if I'm having a problem? Also I've been prescribed Diasapam to relax me, not had this before? I suffer with fibromyalgia in my shoulders and neck, so having to raise my arms over my head and keep still for up to 30 mins is very daunting.

    I'll let you know how I get on.


  • Good luck with it. Hope it goes well for you! They suggested that I hold my arms above my head which felt comfortable at first but when I asked them can I lower them when I am inside the scan and they said no, I decided against it! 20 minutes in that one position without being able to move would have been too excruiating! Plus my arms being not supported down my sides whilst trying to hold my boobs in as not allowed to wear bra because of the metal hooks!

  • I was the same. Can't use lifts. Revolving doors etc. My hospital in Chester has one that's mri but more like a ct scanner. Much better. They told me to ask for that in future.

  • Hi, some hospitals have more than one mri unit, when I advised them that I was claustrophobic they booked me into the larger unit. I also don't look inside and shut my eyes asap and done't open them until it is all over. I think it is a good idea to play a relaxing cd with water splashing up on the beach and imagine yourself lying there. I actually imagined myself in the Lake District one of my favourite places.

    I hope you can manage to relax enough next time.

    Good luck, Sue xx

  • I've had several MRI scans over the years, and although I wasn't "comfortable" during the whole process, I was able to get through them. Then I had to have another one about 4 years ago, and after they got me into the tube I had a full blown panic attack and she had to quickly get me out. I was so embarrassed! But I had some Rescue Remedy drops in my purse, so I took a full dropperful of it and relaxed for a few minutes and I was ok. Skip forward to this past year and I had to have another one. Same thing happened (I'd taken a muscle relaxer before, but it didn't help!) again. So again, I took a dropperful of the Rescue Remedy and I was ok. Although I must be strange, because it made me more claustrophobic to have the eye mask and ear phones on. I felt more "open" with nothing, and got through it. Here in the states, they do have "Open MRIs", but I've never tried one because I was told they get a better picture with the tube kind of MRIs. I hope you the best, because when you need an MRI, you need one! Gentle hugs!

  • Thank you Carotopgal! In fact I was like you, as soon as they put the head phones on me I felt more claustrophobic, I think its because you feel more cut off and because you can't hear whats going on around you. But they said that I have to have the headphones because the noise of the machine is too loud!

  • It is pretty loud, but not so much that it will hurt your ears! I think it's your choice if you wear the head phones or not. I'd just tell them that you will handle the noise! :-)

  • My MRI experience yesterday was not good. I took the 2 Diasapam, the nurse tried to insert needle for the contrast and my vein blew. I asked how long the scan would take and she said 1 hour. I would have to lie on my stomach with my arms out in front like superman (nurses words), they would scan first without contrast and then introduce the contrast.

    I explained I had problems lying on my stomach due to Hiatus Hernia and multiple Lipomas, which are very painful without having to lie on them. She went off and spoke to her consultant and returned to say that he said I was not suitable for this type of scan and would refer me back to my consultant for a follow up ultra sound scan. I was not impressed as I had taken the pills to calm me down and didn't get the scan.

    Why can't they sort out these things before you are given an appointment? Surely it would save a lot of time and money on the NHS if they knew patients history before putting them through this. I'm not happy.



  • I think the diagnostics and doctors don't really talk to each other, they just shuffle charts :P It's the problem with a big and busy system - the smaller bits like you and I get shuffled too. Hopefully the ultrasound will be less stressful, both physically and emotionally.


  • Thanks Azabat for your reply, I have had 2 ultra sounds previously, but my consultant asked for the MRI as he wanted more details of what's happening in my fingers, they have been swollen now for spot is 2 plus years and very painful. Will just have to wait and see what happens next.


  • You're definitely not alone. I had one done years ago for pretty much the same reason as you. Now I'm quite claustrophobic - I don't like lifts, I can't fly - even thinking about so many people in what is basically a tin tube makes me feel ill. However when I had my scan I rushed in to the hospital from from my teaching job, it was summer and really hot, the room was air conditioned and was lovely and cool and I just lay there and enjoyed the peace. Whether it was something to do with that or not I don't know but I just got on the bed and lay there doing everything I was told to do. I did find my eyes had sort of gone out of focus afterwards - think that was something to do with not being able to focus on anything on the inside of the machine.

    Like someone said you can talk to the operator all the time and from what I can remember the machine made noises throughout the process.

    I know several people who really find it very difficult, I'm the only person I know who didn't mind it at all.

    One lady I met was so terrified that they actually let her husband into the room to hold her big toe - that was the only part of her he could reach. I think there is a new type of machine that is just like a circle you pass through. Maybe you could find one of those.

    What about a sedative before you go in? There was a little boy going in to be scanned after I had my scan and he had been heavily sedated so I'm sure that would be possible.

  • Thanks Fruitandnutcase, I did take a sedative before hand, as was unable to lie on my stomach they said I wasn't suitable for the MRI scan.


  • I had 1 couple of weeks ago, I felt the same at first . Realised I had to have it done so I can find out what's causing my pain, I tried to think of a happy thought and was that relaxed I nearly fell asleep . I know it's not easy but you need to know so at least you can get the help required

  • Unable to lie on stomach due to hiatus hernia and lipomas so was deemed unsuitable for MRI.

  • I had one done last year and because I kept having panic attacks in there they let me take my husband in with me to have it done and he held my hand all the way through, I wouldn't have been able to have it without him.

  • I had an awful panic when I had an MRI. I managed to stay in the machine without pushing the panic-and-eject button (!) but I lost the use of my legs temporarily... They had to fetch a wheelchair to get me off the machine and out of the room because I couldn't stand. I assume it was shock. :(

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