Innovations in MRI technology have focused not just on producing clearer images for physicians but also on making patients much more comfortable throughout the procedure. Now that they aren’t limited to traditional closed MRI machines, patients who have previously feared MRI exams can now come in and get accurate diagnoses and suitable treatment plans for their conditions and illnesses.
The first two installments of this 3-part guide discussed MRI processes and the advantages of opting for open MRI. Read on for a guide for patients coming in for an MRI procedure.
Preparing for an MRI
While every MRI procedure is similar for most patients, the preparation beforehand differs depending on the body part being scanned and the potential illness being diagnosed. The diagnostic clinic or the hospital will provide patients with everything they need to prepare for their MRI exam.
Some patients are not allowed to eat anything for two to three hours before the MRI scan. It’s also best for patients to keep away from alcoholic and caffeinated beverages for at least 24 hours.
If a patient has any of the following, they should disclose it to their doctor immediately:
Metal plates or pins
Previous gunshot wound
Any metal in or on the patient’s body can affect the resulting image quality or even cause injury while the patient is in the MRI’s magnetic field.
Three decades of study have shown no proven risks to pregnant women or their unborn children if they go through an MRI exam. However, if the patient is pregnant or has reason to believe they might be, they should also disclose this to their doctor.
What Is an Open MRI Like?
Depending on the body part being scanned, the patient may be asked to ingest or be injected with contrast fluid that will help produce clearer images. Patients should remove all make-up, jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures, hearing aids, and any metallic accessories that may be on their person.
The patient is then helped onto the cushioned table. A coil will be placed over or under the area that will be scanned—this helps the machine create a clear picture of the soft tissues.
MRI procedures generally last 40 minutes to over an hour. All the patient needs to do is lie as still as they can. There are no bodily sensations beyond the sound of the machine thumping continuously for several minutes at a time.
There is no designated recovery period after an MRI exam. If contrast fluid was used, a few glasses of water will help flush it out of the body.
Relieving MRI Anxiety
Opting for an open MRI means that there is plenty of space around the patient. However, some people may still experience anxiety because of the complex medical procedure. Here are some ways to relieve that anxiety:
Wear comfortable, loose clothing
The doctor may provide anti-anxiety medication or even a sedative for the exam
Examining the MRI scanner and learning about the process can help alleviate nervousness
Relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can help keep the patient still and relaxed during the exam
Children can bring a blanket or stuffed animal for comfort
A relative or friend can keep the patient company
Advancements and innovations in medical imaging technology have made MRI procedures more comfortable for patients. True open MRI systems are tremendously helpful for people who have anxiety, claustrophobia, and have specific spatial needs. The open space and unrestricted airflow make a big difference in a patient’s overall well-being.
This is part 3 of 3 in this blog series about open MRI. Make sure to check out our blog for more information in parts 1 and 2!
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