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posted: 4/23/2014 7:50 PM

Advocate Good Shepherd radiologist offers 5 tips to alleviate MRI fears

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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

The doctor ordered an MRI. And if you are like many people, being in a confined space and lying in a tube can be scary. It is not uncommon to feel anxious or claustrophobic during a MRI scan. Until recently, the procedure involved sliding your body into a tight fitting tube.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body. Recent developments in the technology however, have widened these tubes, creating new space on all sides and a more open feeling. However, many people still feel some levels of anxiety with an MRI.

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Focusing on the benefits of the MRI can help to be a motivator. Dr. Smitesh Patel, diagnostic radiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, says that there are many benefits of having an MRI.

"MRI scans are better than X-rays at showing soft tissue," he says. "The scans show inflammation, detailing blood vessels and creating cross-sectional pictures. In addition to the excellent views, there is no radiation."

If you have an upcoming MRI and are getting a little worried about it, Dr. Patel offers a few tips to help you through the process:

Breathe

A good relaxation technique can simply be the way in which you control your breathing. When the time comes during your MRI that you start to feel a little stressed, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to breathe in while counting in your head until you reach 10. Then do the same thing while you're breathing out making all the way to 10. If you've accomplished that, then work on counting slower and slower each time, slowing down your breathing as much as you can.

Guided imagery

Another well-known relaxation technique is through guided mental imagery. Imagine a favorite beach or some soothing time in your life. Then spend time really trying to imagine every detail of that place. Close your eyes and visualize this place. Picture all the details and the people around you. What are you doing? Create a relaxing scenario that you will be happy to return to even after your MRI.

Meditation

Try relaxing with meditation during the test. The machine produces rhythmic thumping noises and some vibrations. Use these noises to get lost in your meditation. You may find that you fall asleep briefly while the test is being done.

Try to completely clear your mind. Let go of all your to-do lists. Think of nothing. Think of black.

Music

Many hospitals have music piped right into the MRI room. If they have the capability then the staff will gladly let you listen to your own music.

Think about what you would like to listen to before entering your test. Decide if you would like something relaxing or more upbeat. Just be aware that there will be times when you will be asked to remain perfectly still, so no tapping your feet to the music.

Medication

In some cases, some people may use medication as an option if they don't think any of these relaxing techniques will work. "These sedatives can calm you or put you to sleep," Dr. Patel says. "It is a good idea to have someone drive you to and from your MRI test if you are planning on taking a sedative before the test. When you get to your test, tell the staff what sedative you took and how long ago you took it."

Whatever tactic you decide to pursue to combat the anxiety, Dr. Patel says to talk with your radiology technologist doing the procedure. He or she will be able to help you with any claustrophobic anxiety and they will have ways to help you, Dr. Patel says.

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