Open MRI vs. closed? Claustrophobic

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by artyreader, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. artyreader

    artyreader Member

    Due to excruciating pain and paralyzing spasms in back, neck, shoulder and upper arms and much hand pain in last few months,leaving me with extra pain and often scary immobility

    (I have degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia but tweaked my back last year--overdid it, and now these problems.)

    I went to have an MRI taken (closed). I have always been a highly anxious person and claustrophobic. Nonetheless, I really thought I could do it. Read on--

    They gave me eye mask and ear plugs and then slowly put me in. Despite all of the above, the moment I was in I panicked and had to get immediately out.

    I am now going to have an open MRI done. I am very low income, so I can't afford the fancy new ones with beautiful graphics, music,etc.

    Everyone says that the open MRI's are not as accurate, and I'm going to get cervical and lumbar imaging. Why can't they just give me general anesthesia? (holding still for long time is also extremely difficult for me, no matter how hard I try--and I always try my best)
    Please, anybody had experience with both kinds of MRI or only one kind and how did that go?
    Thank you !,

  2. ameilie73

    ameilie73 Member

    I have experience with normal MRI, never knew there was an open MRI. It isnt nice, i dont think anyone feels comfortable having them. Unless they like being stuffed in a toilet roll tube and then placed on a building site.

    I always feel panic going in, but it is about mind over matter, I have to think to myself, first breath, otherwise the panic can take over, (what i mean by this is my heads screaming "Get me out of here! I dont care about my back, my neck, anything else in this world, just GET ME OUT OF HERE!" then I have to think this is going to be, 40 minutes (it varies) at most out of my life, just to lie here still and then thats it i can move on with my treatment. And i have to repeat this many times over.

    Now i don't know if America's the same as Britain, but there is a little mirror in them that allows you to see behind you which does help the feeling of claustrophobia. I think ive had music in a headset once, we dont mainly have that just a great big headset to muffle the noise, they also speak to you regularly through the headset. I suppose its about trying to get your mind into a space thats takes your mind off whats happening, like reliving a happy memory, or a conversation, anything to avoid thinking about where you are. It is a long time to lay still so you do need to take your pain meds, also especially in ours, i ask for a blanket, because it gets cold, so i always make sure ive got one. Maybe they'd let you have some diazepam, but i dont think their ever going to put someone under general as thats a danger in itself.

    For me it is about getting through the initial feelings, comfort talking yourself through and then using distractive visual technique. Its a snipet in time which after the surgeons can get to putting you right.

    I hope all goes well whatever you decide


    [This Message was Edited on 04/27/2013]
    [This Message was Edited on 04/27/2013]
  3. loveslilacs30

    loveslilacs30 Member

    I was in an iold one to have my back done. About 3 seconds, I squeezed the bulb and I was out of there.

    The next was of my head. i asked to be sent to an open end one in a big city. It was OK but I couldn't kwwp my8 chin still and was yelled at. I completed it. I had several more of my brain in open end and survived. My more recent ones for back were in the newer ones and i survived OK--almost went to sleep. Brain ones are awful---your entire head is covered by a plastic mask with just teeny holes to look out----jusgt keep eyes shut.
  4. loveslilacs30

    loveslilacs30 Member

    I was in an iold one to have my back done. About 3 seconds, I squeezed the bulb and I was out of there.

    The next was of my head. i asked to be sent to an open end one in a big city. It was OK but I couldn't keep my chin still and was yelled at. I completed it. I had several more of my brain in open end and survived. My more recent ones for back were in the newer ones and i survived OK--almost went to sleep. Brain ones are awful---your entire head is covered by a plastic mask with just teeny holes to look out----just keep eyes shut.

    Good luck,
  5. kbak

    kbak Member

    The easiest way to do an MRI is to wear a sleep mask over your eyes, some places provide them, shut your eyes and relax! They play music for you. It's really not that bad. It is noisy tho. Don't phyc yourself out! Consider it a relaxing experience.

    I've had both types of MRI and I've just had my eyes closed and covered, layed there and day dreamed, and it's over before you know it.

    Take care,
  6. elliespad

    elliespad Member

    I've had several MRIs. I only agree to the Open MRI as I am EXTREMELY claustrophobic. No problem at all with the open ones. You can see out to the sides. Even with your head strapped perfectly still and facing up, you can still see a bit to the sides. You do not have the the sensation of being trapped in there. The worst of it is holding still for the duration. But,,,,you can ask for a wedge under you knees to take the pressure off your back and hips, and ask for a roll to get your neck as comfortable as possible. I even ask for a blanket because it's always cool in there.

    Then, they will tell you how many images they are going to take and how long each one lasts. I count to myself to sort of time each one. They update you as each one is done, tells you when your half way through. It sort of gets you through it.

    I always take Ibuprofen before to help with pain. I tell myself, in the world of medical procedures, this is nothing. You can get through it.
  7. artyreader

    artyreader Member

    I am life-long unusually high anxiety person (long story, yes, some horrendous abuse, well into adulthood,a target(NOT A VICTIM--I don't like that word, at least as it pertains to me) of domestic abuse and stalking and violence from mentally ill "rageaholic" paranoid schizophrenic family member.)

    But, also, having lived over 5 decades now, and trying very very very hard to "relax"/mind over matter, breathing exercises, therapy, "gratitude journal, and changing my diet,etc etc. and some research-- It just seems that, after all that, I'm just wired that way--I guess what people used to call "High strung".

    It would be much easier to be different!!! and I've gotten a lot of abuse and misunderstanding since having this and other life-limiting illnesses which doesn't help either my emotional or physical health, as I'm sure many, if not most of people on these boards can attest too.

    I seem to be going through a lot of PTSD (and the closed MRI seemed to trigger that, too, though I really thought, until the last second, that I could do it!!! Darn!!!)
    Depsite my age, the decades of abuse are screaming to be gently dealt with; I don't want to have PTSD all my life, and people don't really understand because I mostly smile and try to fit in, but I just don't and it's hard to find a therapist in my price range--I truly thought, despite lifelong claustrophobia (I barely survive on Social Security Disability and am completely alone and have been for decades)that I could do the MRI

    . I never dreamed that I'd become disabled so young (almost 20 years ago, in my late 30's--I was the typical go go go, fun, working--loved my job and my boyfriends and my friends and social life and then--FIBROMYALGIA (a word I had never even heard before when a doctor listened to my symptoms and diagnosed me. . .) It's like being buried alive. And forgotten and invisible.

    I just recently found a book called "The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine Aron--It really describes me almost to a "T" (we are all different, of course). Perhaps some readers on this board might want to check it out (it was in library)

    I have the open MRI scheduled for next week, I will take some anti-anxiety pills beforehand, and I called the MRI center and yes, they do have music (the other one did not, and that I hope will make a difference, plus, it is open)

    Thanks for your words and support. This is a great website. I wish each one of you something really beautiful to happen in your life, and soon!!!
    Take care,
    old arty :)-)
  8. ameilie73

    ameilie73 Member

    Thank you for sharing the reason as to why you suffer such a bad reaction to a closed MRI, disclosing that helps us to understand why it is so diificult. I can understand that deep seated trauma can cause an instinctive reaction to such a situation, that type of thing is extremely diificult to control because as you say it is inbuilt.

    Have you disclosed this to the MRI techician because it makes a difference when someone understands the why of something.

    It sounds like people who have had open MRI's have had a better experience with them with regards to claustrophobia. The fact that they have offered this as an alternative shows they must have some understanding.

    I hope all goes well for you

    [This Message was Edited on 04/29/2013]
  9. artyreader

    artyreader Member


    Your reply really touched my heart, and made me feel "heard". I can't say enough what a difference it makes when people truly try to put themselves in my (or another's) shoes.

    When I DO reach out to others for help/support, it's because I've already exhausted my "repetoire"
    of self-care,etc. and despite big efforts and willingness, sometimes the best "medicine' is the caring words/listening ear of another person.

    I thank all who posted here, and, just a gentle reminder that each person is like a beautiful flower--some of us are roses, others daffodils--or just daffy!!--daisys, carnations,etc and different things work for different folks.

    I am truly happy for anyone who has found methods that work for them, but, after trying many many modalities over the years, I feel I can say that, at least for now, this is, for better or worse, my present situation.

    Can I/ it change? Good question. I sure hope so, and definitely have tried whole-heartedly, but need at same time to accept the situation as it is first, and then continue different methods to manage health as be as "alive" as possible under the circummstances!

    My job is to keep on keeping on and do my best, and also, to extend compassion to others. As REM sang, "Everybody hurts. . .sometime"

    One more thing: Over and over I have found that when someone really "gets" what I'm saying and/or really sees me, really hears me, even if I have a vent that is angry or sad, etc ,(aside from the "socially acceptable" emotions and "upbeat only" mask:) when I am really listened to and empathy is given, it releases something in me, and gives me the strength to do the scary or hard or very difficult thing.

    Sorry so long, but just had to say this.
    And blessings to all of you amazing "invisible warriors" who grapple daily with Fibro/ME, many other debilitating conditions, and . . .life! Thank you for being there for me and others on this board, and I send my highest hopes to you for easing of symptoms, understanding hearts around you, and--as much as it seems impossible right now--a cure for these things!!!! (Hey, a girl can dream,no?) All the best to all of you!
  10. MsBrandywine

    MsBrandywine Member

    Hi Arty..
    I have tried the closed Mri too and I could not do it either.. Got in there and as soon as they got me in.. I hollared to get me out.. and of course it seemed like it took forever... I am very claustrophobic... been locked in a phone booth before and wasn't able to get out.. Got locked in a small bathroom.. lol so.. I have big issues with small places.. I even have a clear shower curtain in my tub..
    but I have had two Open ones and they weren;t too bad but I did take if I remmeber right it was 10 mgs of Valium.. which I took one at home and one when I got almost there.. I did get a bit antsy the last time towards the end.. guess another msg of Vailum I could have used..

    I wish You the best with Yours... perhaps You can ask for something to take to relax You before You go too?

    I had to go to the Drs today and shes thinking of me having another one on my neck.. if I m still having pain and discomfort and Im not feeling any better in 3 to 4 wks of having physical therapy.. and using some anti inflammatory meds..
    Good Luck Hon.. my thoughts and prayers are with You..
  11. gb66

    gb66 Well-Known Member

    I have had two regular MRI's, the last one was for the brain. I am extremely claustrophobic too. I was trapped in an elevator when I was young, for a few minutes, and it terrified me.

    I still feel breathless when I get in them and cannot ride in one by myself.

    They will give you something to relax you if you request it. It may help. If you're not used to the medication though, don't drive yourself there and back.

    The noise is very loud so wear earplugs and headphones. They do talk to you every few minutes and tell you what they're doing and how long it will be.

    It truly wasn't as bad as I had expected. It took about 30 minutes and I had the closed kind. I'd like to try an open and see if I'm more relaxed next time. GB66
  12. sunflowergirl

    sunflowergirl Well-Known Member

    almost brings me to tears. Same with you, MsBrandywine. So many awful events that people have to deal with, learn to forget, try to move on and yet something will trigger a memory and BLAM! It's back again.

    I've had 3 MRIs....the closed type. I'm slightly claustrophobic, and with painful neck and back I was so afraid of having to be still and not move. I was determined to go thru it though. I took my own silicone ear plugs, but even with those I could still feel and hear the loud noise. I just counted each picture as it was being taken and tried to take myself to a safe place in my mind......willing it to be over. And yes, I HAD to take a little valium before I went.
    Oh Yes.....I closed my eyes before they moved me into the machine and kept them closed tight so I NEVER saw how close I was until I was being moved out. But I was determined!!!!!

    I've got cervical and lumbar stenosis and have also been having PT......neck traction and muscle strengthening machines. I was really SCARED of neck traction, had two very painful manual tractions and stretching on my neck and now a machine each time for l5 min. It's actually been helping me, along with the neck exercises I do, and the hip exercises. My PT told me yesterday that I would probably never be pain free because of having FM but it really has helped me. I also take ibuprofen several times a day and tramadol when the pain gets really bad.

    I have an assortment of those gel filled packs (4 x 7") which I keep in the freezer. I pop one into a knee high which I've sewn on a piece of velcro. That way I can go about my housework, etc. wearing it around my neck. The cold really helps cut the pain. I also have a heated rice sock with the velcro to alternate cold and heat.

    I hope everything starts to turn around for you and you begin to heal.
    [This Message was Edited on 05/01/2013]
  13. MsBrandywine

    MsBrandywine Member

    Where do You get the gel filled packs? Thanks!.. They might be nice to have on hand so when my grandkids come .. and they need something like that..

  14. sunflowergirl

    sunflowergirl Well-Known Member

    but I'm sure you could look elsewhere. I have about 8 of them in the freezer.
  15. artyreader

    artyreader Member

    sharing your own experiences with MRI, claustrophobia,and more. Upon reading so many kind, informative and encouraging posts from you guys over the last few days, I feel "heard" and supported and though I still have some nervousness, my heart is lighter because of you taking the time to respond to my questions and concerns.
    Sometimes I feel so alone and misunderstood, and battling this alone, but when I read your posts right now, tears came to my eyes for your kindness and empathy and for sharing your own experiences and what worked for you,etc, and I feel less alone and somehow more supported--thank you thank you thank you!
    You rock! :)-)
    A friend is going to drive me over and back, I will take some anti-anxiety meds before I go,my trusty sleep mask, and I called the place where they do the MRI's and they said that yes, they have music! (the other place didn't)
    I love music and it often helps me to let myself go into the rhythms and melodies (I just gotta make sure I don't involuntarily start "dancing" on the MRI table--hee hee)
    I will have both cervical and lumbar, so it'll take a while, but I feel so much better after all your posts.
    Blessings galore to each one of you in your health and other life situations!
    With a grateful and hopeful heart,
  16. MsBrandywine

    MsBrandywine Member

    I will keep you in my prayers..
    Gentle hugs,
  17. onedaysoon1959

    onedaysoon1959 New Member

    I actually just had 3 MRI's done this past week in the closed in older style. They don't have an open one in my small city. I had had them done in 2008 and had to medicated to handle doing them that time. I have a new GP from then and I made sure that when he ordered the MRI that he also wrote out a prescription for me to take prior to each one. He had no problem doing that at all.
    It doesn't take all my feelings and anxieties away but it just brings them down to a level where I stay focused on the fact that I don't want to have to go back to do it again and I use a lot of slow breathing and mind distractions just to keep me in that tube once I'm there. I did tell the tech that I had to be medicated to get this done so she was great making sure I was still doing ok during the procedure. She said she would pause it if I absolutely had to.
    I don't know what your doctor is like whether or not he would give you something to help you relax for the test or not. The only thing is that you can't drive yourself if he does. Which compared to being a little more comfortable to be able to get through it wasn't an issue for me.
    Good luck.