Need to find an open MRI but do they exist...?

Looking for an ‘open’ MRI scanner for my newly diagnosed sister who is terrified of the normal MRI machines. Have done a thorough google search and spoken to about 10 places, but all say that most open MRI machines aren’t strong enough to be used on internal organs and are mainly used for things like spinal problems.
She had a really bad expiereince in a regular MRI machine a few years ago and I know that we won’t be able to convince her to get back in one. We tried last night and she had a panic attack just thinking about it. Has anyone got any ideas? Is it possible to have a general anaesthetic for an MRI scan?
Any advice much appreciated.
Tootles x


I had an MRI scan just after christmas and I think that the newer models are less restrictive than the older models. It was very bright inside and I took in my own music to listen to, but the hospital had lots of their own to chose from. I just kept my eyes closed and listened to the music from my daughter’s wedding so thought happy thoughts throughout the process so the time passed really quickly. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined.

My sister is claustrophobic and she was allowed to have her husband with her touching her toes throughout which she found allowed her to cope with the experience so might be worth asking if this would be allowed. Worth a try?

Good luck to your sister

MAzzalou x

Hi, your sister could ask her doctor for a mild sedative to relax her. x

There is an open MRI at the BMI The Ridgeway. They don’t do Breast MRI’s though. I recently accompanied a claustrophobic friend to her MRI, her GP had prescribed a strong sedative and I sat in the room with her holding her leg during the scan, she had bought her own music for the headphones, she coped well although she got at bit tearful. My son had a GA when he was six for an MRI, he was too scared/wriggly at the time. Not sure if they offer this to adults. As an alternative, PET/CT’s are open, you could look into that.

I think there is one at Stoke or Stafford? My dads friend needed one for a heart condition? Good luck

I had a breast MRI and I had to lie face-down, which I find a lot less claustrophobic than lying face-up in some of the other machines they put us in. I had my forehead resting on a foam block which was very comfortable, my arms by my sides, toasty warm trousers and fluffy socks, and a lovely warm blanket. They also gave me headphones as the machine is rather loud, but they put echo through the music or whatever you have playing, so if you have your eyes shut, it feels/sounds like you’re in the middle of the Albert Hall! They also gave me a button to hold onto that I could press if I needed them, which was very reassuring. I completely zoned out during the scan, as the machine noises while loud were very rhythmic. I was toasty warm so I visualised myself on a beach, or lying on a massage table waiting for the masseur to turn up. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but I was so relaxed I think I might even have fallen asleep!

I hope your sister is able to go through with it. She might find a bit of hypnosis can help her. Having someone in with her holding her foot might also help, along with some fairly strong sedation. It is so tough having to deal with a phobia like this, I don’t think those of us who are lucky enough not to have a problem can’t really understand what it’s like. (Just don’t ask me to go anywhere near a spider though.)

Good luck.

i to am claustrophobic of these machines .if they say i have to go in them i would freak out they would have to put me sleep or sedate me :frowning: xx huggs to your sister xx

Hi Tootles,

Did your sister have to lie on her back for the previous MRI? Modern MRI machines are open at both ends - apparently there are very few which are closed at one end - something I didn’t realise until I went to look at the machine prior to a scan a few years ago. I’ve had MRI scans lying on my back previously which I did find claustrophobic, however I’ve also had breast MRI scans where I lay on my front and it felt completely different and because I positioned myself so that I could see out of the end so didn’t feel claustrophobic.

The scanning unit in your local hospital should be able to advise if a GA is possible.

I echo the comments already made, I’m not sure the type of MRI machine that are open down one side can do breast scans so if sedation isn’t the answer, or a GA is not possible and your sister is adamant that she won’t go then it may be useful to find out about PET or CT instead as the machines are more like a big doughnut.

Best of luck to your sister and you.

I had to have an MRI scan a few years ago and I had a panic attack and couldn’t go in it. I booked another scan for two weeks later. I went to my GP and he gave me some Diazepam (quite low dose). He told me to try a tablet in advance to get an idea of how it made me feel. The night before the scan I took one and next morning about 2 hours before the scan I took another and I went into the scanner with no problem at all. The radiologist gave me an eye mask to wear in case I was tempted to open my eyes in the scanner.

All I can say is if I can do it (with Diazepam) anyone can!

Good luck
Maude xx

not sure where u r based but… Swindon whiltshire has an open mri scanner
J x

Not sure if this of any help but OH has had 2 MRI scans, one for spine and one for brain in an upright scanner in central London. You really do just sit between the plates. Don’t know if they do breast though


you might be able to get NHS to refer and pay for open MRI at private/BUPA type clinics, but it might depend on where you are and how good a case you can put. Good luck

I am having mine tomorow and iam really claustrophobic, I am taking diazapan, 1 hour before, I would love an open one, apparantly they arent good for breast s…hope she manages it…xx

I hope yours goes well Lisa123. Thinking of you x
THANK YOU all so very much for the responses. Really really helpful. I have spoken to the College of Radiology and they have confirmed that open scanners aren’t strong enough for the breast. The one my sister had a bad experience in (took ages and then a few minutes beore the end the hospital fire alarm went off and she was left stranded) was a closed ended one so hopefully we can find an open ended one. Really helpful to know that facing downwards makes a difference. Will ask for the sedation as well as sounds like it was a success for someone just as terrified!
Thanks once again all
Tootles xx

Tootles - I have PM’d you with some more thoughts.

All the best to everyone finding their way through the hopes and fears that come along with all the beastly tests.

Lisa, you will be much more able to relax if you’re warm and toasty (and the “lying on a beach sunbathing” mental image is easier that way too!). Thing is, the room has to be rather cool for the machine, so make sure you bring with you some nice warm trousers WITH NO METAL and some toasty warm socks. Ask them to cover you with a blanket as well. The last thing you want is to be nervous of moving because you’re shivering!

The face down thing REALLY makes a difference. I also found that they asked me if I wanted to listen to some music or the radio. I asked for Radio 4 as it is mainly speech, and I knew the rhythmic banging of the machine (all perfectly normal but rather loud!) would almost certainly not be in the same beat as whatever music I chose, so speech programmes for me. Or you could bring a CD of “mood” music, relaxing fluffy stuff that doesn’t have lots of drum and bass…

Anyhow, I hope it goes well for you.



I had my mri yesterday, it wasnt anything to be scared of, it was very relaxing, and the one i went in wasnt a long tube and you could see out of it and it was about 3 ft long it looked like a polo, i slept mostly in it apart from when the man spoke to tell me he was doing a scan it took about 45 mins and seemed quick, i did have a mild sedative before i went in which did help, and they will let someone in with you if you explain that you are nervous…good luck…xxx

Lisa - I read about how much you were dreading this so it’s lovely to read today that it wasn’t anything like as bad as you expected. Well done :slight_smile: