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MRI Claustrophobia

Anybody else ever have problems with this? I went to get an MRI done on my shoulder today (dislocated it playing rugby last weekend) and didn’t think anything of it until they slid me into the machine. I’ve always been claustrophobic but never really been in this kind of situation and had a response like this.

The machine was so small my shoulders were squished against either side and the top was only like 4 inches above my nose. Within like 5 seconds I had what I can only describe as a panic attack. My heart rate jumped, I couldn’t breathe, and all I could think about was getting the fuck out of that machine as fast as possible.

I yelled to the tech and hit the emergency button she’d given me and she pulled me out. She took the headphones off and gave me earplugs, said that helped sometimes and we tried again. This time I was able to last like 8 out of the 20 minutes, enough for the first of 3 images to get done, but by the time the second image started I was just too uncomfortable to keep going.

I just got this completely irrational feeling that my heart and lungs were being compressed and I was honestly going to die. The weirdest part was that the whole time, I was conscious of it happening and knew I wasn’t in any danger, but my body wouldn’t believe me.

Anyway, I’m going back on thursday to try it again, this time they’re giving me some valium to take beforehand to take the edge off. I’m hoping that helps, but I’m just wondering if anyone else has dealt with this kind of thing, or really any claustrophobia, and had any tips.

Anyone, know of anything I can do, over time obviously, to try to learn to manage this type of response? It really freaked me out, not being able to control my physical response to some irrational and imagined fear.


Ya, I would imagine that would suck. The valium will probably help. You should probably close your eyes too. Even tanning beds make me nervous haha.

I worked as an MRI technologist for many years, and claustrophobia was very common, so don’t feel bad. At least one patient every day needed some medication to make it through the procedure. Our medication of choice was Xanax but valium works well too.

Something else we did to help our claustrophobia patients was to allow a friend or family to stay in the room with them. We’d give the patient reflective glasses so they could see the person in the room with them, and the person could touch them. Sometimes just having that trusted person with them was enough to help calm their fears.

Hope that helps. And try not to stress yourself out between now and Thursday. You’ll be fine with the valium!

thanks Laurie, my girlfriend will be driving me (can’t drive with the valium in me for some reason;)), maybe they’ll let her be in the room.

The worst part is that I know, consciously, that there’s nothing wrong and nothing going to happen. Even when it was happening I was actively thinking “this is stupid, everything’s fine. Why am I freaking out so much over nothing?” But the physical reaction was completely uncontrollable.

Anyway, I’m not really stressing over it now, I just have a feeling the same thing’s going to happen when I get there thursday, but we’ll see. If it does I can always go somewhere else and get it done on an open MRI machine. This place is just run by the same office that the orthopedist works for so he refers there, obviously.

I know it sounds stupid, but taking deep breaths really helps. It sounds like you tried to think about it logically, but it did not work. That is what helped me.

I would not go in expecting to fail the next one too. Stay positive.

Good luck.

Ha, I was going to suggest valerian root. I think the valium should have you covered, though.

Good luck with it. Try searching online for general relaxation techniques. It cant hurt.

Simple solution: Find a place that has an open MRI. It’s a different design where you’re not in that enclosed tube. Google open MRI. It’s designed exactly so that people don’t freak out.

I hear ya. I had an MRI on my neck several months ago and was stressed out the whole time I was in the machine.

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[quote]Damici wrote:
Simple solution: Find a place that has an open MRI. It’s a different design where you’re not in that enclosed tube. Google open MRI. It’s designed exactly so that people don’t freak out.[/quote]

Yup. my buddy HAD to get this because he’s just too big to fit inside a normal one.

An open air MRI is an option, but most of them aren’t as high of quality image as the regular MRI scanner. I’d try the valium or xanax first and hopefully that works for you. If they don’t work, then a lower quality scan is better than no scan. :slight_smile:

I have worried that an MRI will be in my future one day, and after reading your account of it, it made me have a panic attack just reading it.

Im screwed.

Good luck.

The last time I had one done I had a panic attack and had to come out. The tech put a towel over my face so I couldn’t see the top of the machine 3 inches from my nose and I made it through on the second try. Good luck.

I could relate.

About 5 months ago, I did some drugs(which I will never do again) and it really massed me up good. I began having sudden panic attacks out of the blue. The worst was when I went to a fast food place, and I started freaking out thinking that I will be locked in forever. Of course I knew that it was stupid and nothing was gonna happen but like you said, the body doesn’t believe it. Deep breaths and thinking about sports really helped me get through it.

I suggest that you talk to your Gf during the MRI.

What drugs?

I had one done on my leg about 10yrs ago. I’m no claustrophibic but the freakin’ sounds that shit made almost drove me crazy! All they could give me was ear plugs which really didn’t do shit. My heart was beating like crazy and I wanted out. MRI’s sucks.

I had an MRI done for my brain, and they clamped my head down and put a cage over my face, now that sucked ass. At first, I hated it, but I just calmed down, and I listened to the music, and I used the time of the music to count down how much time I had left, and that helped me a lot.

Just remember, even though you are in there, the way out is simple and easy, you are NOT trapped, reminding myself of this, helped me get thru mine.

A few years back, I had a TIA (mini-stroke) which was a very frightening experience. When it happened, my left arm tingled, I couldn’t see well from my left eye, and I couldn’t speak…well, i could talk, but the sound coming out didn’t resemble anything in the English language. I received all kinds of tests, scans, the whole nine.

Anyway, my point is this. I would rather be inside that machine any day of the week, rather that not get a proper diagnosis so I could get better quicker.

The machine is a tool to get you better faster. That’s all it is.

Did the valium do the trick for you to have your MRI? I hope so.