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Claustrophobia & Medical Scans: Tips for Getting Through Your Scan

If you are someone who has claustrophobia—or the fear of confined spaces or being closed in—learning that you need to undergo a medical test like an MRI or a CT scan can induce substantial anxiety, indeed, claustrophobia is a form of anxiety disorder, and when people who have claustrophobia are forced to spend time in an enclosed space, that person can have a panic or anxiety attack. Of course, claustrophobia is different for everyone, and people who suffer from it experience it to varying degrees of severity and with differing symptoms.

It is important for anyone who has claustrophobia to find ways to relieve the anxiety associated with a medical scan to avoid a

medical condition worsening or never being treated. To be clear, claustrophobia is a very real disorder, but patients need to find ways to manage it in order to have the MRI or CT scan they need. At Intermountain Medical Imaging, we routinely work with patients who have claustrophobia, and we help these patients to manage the claustrophobia symptoms in order to make it through an MRI or CT scan. Before you come in for medical imaging, you should take a look at these tips for getting through your scan.

1. Talk to Your Doctor About Your Claustrophobia Before the Scan

You should always discuss your concerns with your primary care physician prior to a scan or any other diagnostic procedure. Your physician can speak with you about the procedure and options for managing your claustrophobia.

2. Learn More About the Procedure of the Scan in Advance

By learning more about the procedure in advance, you may be able to quell some of your anxiety. One of the reasons that medical imaging scans are anxiety-inducing is because the patient does not know what to expect. You can avoid this uncertainty by speaking directly with the facility where the scan will occur.

3. Inquire About Seeing the Imaging Machine in Advance

You may be able to see the imaging machine in advance of your scan. For some patients with claustrophobia, being able to see the machine and to visualize the scan occurring can help to reduce the anxiety produced by claustrophobia.

4. Listen to Music During the Scan

There are a variety of ways you may be able to distract yourself during the scan, and listening to music is one of them. You should speak with your doctor, the technologist, your therapist, and others you trust about ways to distract yourself during the procedure.

5. Ask About Whether Chemical Sedation is an Option

Some physicians may be able to prescribe a medication that can help to sedate you or lessen your anxiety during the scan.

6. Learn Breathing Techniques

Breathing techniques are often helpful for reducing anxiety or mitigating panic attacks in a wide variety of situations. Accordingly, learning and using breathing techniques for a medical scan may be able to reduce the anxiety associated with claustrophobia.

7. Learn Counting Techniques

Similar to breathing techniques, counting techniques can also help reduce anxiety and assist with panic attacks.

8. Find Out if Alternatives Are Available

Depending upon the reason for the procedure, you may have other alternatives available to you. Your doctor can answer questions about diagnostic alternatives. At Intermountain Medical Imaging, we have multiple locations with larger bore MRI scanners, which have more space and help to reduce anxiety.

Talk to the Technologist During the Scan

You can talk to the technologist during the scan, and you can let the technologist know if you are beginning to panic. Having someone to talk to during the procedure can often mitigate the effects of claustrophobia.

Bring a Friend or Family Member to Support You

Beyond speaking to a technologist, you should find out about having a family member, friend, or another supportive person to accompany you for the scan. You should make sure that the support person is a calming presence in your life and someone who you trust.

Contact Intermountain Medical Imaging for More Information

If you have questions about scheduling a scan or learning more about tips for getting through a CT scan or MRI with claustrophobia, we can help. Contact Intermountain Medical Imaging today for more information.