For many years, the thought of getting an MRI has been anxiety-inducing for many patients. The idea of lying in an enclosed space and staying still for an extended period is intimidating even for those who aren’t claustrophobic. Getting an MRI is not a fun experience for anyone.
Fortunately, patients no longer have to suffer through traditional closed machines. Advancements in technology have made it possible to collect imaging data through wide-bore and completely open MRIs. Patients have a much more comfortable experience because of wider tables and larger tubes.
How Do MRIs Work?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of medical imaging test that uses magnets, radio waves, and a computer processor to produce images of the body’s internal systems. The MRI’s magnets align with the protons in the body. When the machine is turned on, it emits radio waves that cause the protons to spin from their alignment. And when the current is turned off, the MRI’s sensors detect the energy released as the protons go back to equilibrium. These sensors create a highly detailed image that shows the condition of the soft tissues in the body.
MRIs can show issues in the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and ligaments that cannot be seen through x-rays or ultrasounds. Physicians use images from MRIs to diagnose and keep track of the progression of tumors, strokes, infections, cartilage injuries, herniated discs, pinched nerves, brain activity, and many more. The MRI procedure is perfectly painless, radiation-free, and non-invasive.
In the decades since their invention in 1978, MRI machines have helped doctors study all types of diseases that used to be difficult to diagnose in their early stages. Images can be viewed from all angles and cross-sections, so diagnoses based on MRIs are much more accurate.
Traditional Closed MRI
When people think of MRIs, the first image that pops in their minds is the traditional closed MRI. It consists of a large machine with a narrow, tubular opening where patients lay down to be scanned. The earliest versions of MRI machines came in the “closed bore” version—the opening was only 60 cm. Wide-bore closed MRIs have wider openings at 70 cm, but still, some obese and differently-abled patients cannot fit through them. MRI scans can last from 40 minutes to 2 hours, and the machine can be a little loud, making the enclosed space even more uncomfortable.
True Open MRI
Closed MRIs capture very detailed and high-quality images because of their strong magnetic field. However, many patients experience anxiety and even panic attacks when placed inside a narrow, loud space.
Every innovation in MRIs has made them much more comfortable for the people placed inside them. Open MRIs are now available for any patient who prefer not to go through the ordeal of a closed MRI.
A True Open MRI is open on all sides, providing much-needed breathing room and added comfort for the patient. The magnets at the top and bottom of the open space take images of the soft tissue and work much the same way as a traditional MRI.
Unfortunately, not all patients are candidates for open MRI. Not all healthcare facilities have them, either. If your physician says you need an MRI and you feel you will not be able to handle being in a closed machine for an hour, you can check around to see if any hospitals in your area have an open MRI machine.
The first MRI was invented less than 50 years ago, but this technology has helped doctors diagnose and treat millions of patients worldwide. Advancements in MRI technology mean that patients no longer have to suffer anxiety and claustrophobia caused by the very narrow openings. Now, people can opt for procedures in MRIs that are fully open and breathable on all sides.
This is part 1 of 3 in this blog series about open MRI. Make sure to check out our blog for more information in parts 2 and 3!
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