Claustrophobic? Try an upright MRI if anxious with standard MRI scanning machines

Three weeks ago, someone rolled onto my knee while playing basketball. The momentum of his body forcing my knee in a direction it naturally doesn’t go and I felt something in my knee move (something that shouldn’t be moving).

That night I felt some extreme pain and had trouble walking the next couple days. I waited a few days to see how I would feel. My knee was felt better but there were sharp pains when I moved in certain directions. My doctor recommended that I have an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) exam done to see how severe the knee damage was.

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Now I am not deathly-afraid of MRIs, but I definitely wasn’t looking forward to having my body slid into a tight-fitting, human-sized pipe.

I won’t cry, but I won’t be smiling either.

Stand Up MRI: An alternative for those that are claustrophobic

The next day I was walking home and noticed a storefront that said “Stand Up MRI”, on Avenue A and East 12th street; just a couple blocks away from my house in Alphabet City.

I walked in and the girl at the front desk handed me a brochure explaining the difference between a “stand up MRI” and a traditional one. With a Stand Up MRI, also known as an “upright MRI”, the scan is done with a front-open design, so you’re not entirely enclosed and moved into a tube-like machine as you are scanned.

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Again, my heart rate would definitely raise, but I would be able to do it. However, if a more-open option was available, why not take it? If you get a little anxious in tight spaces or freak out at the idea of enclosed spaces, this is a good alternative to the standard MRI procedure if it’s available to you.

MRI claustrophobia

How an upright MRI works

Instead of laying down like you’re in a coffin and slowly inserted into a machine, you start out standing up and the machine angles you so the scan can be done. You’re not staring up at the insides of a MRI machine, but looking forward at the wall or looking up at the room’s ceiling.

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The Stand Up MRI brochure says you can watch a big-screen television while you’re getting scanned, but when I got my MRI, the TV was too far for me to pay attention to. The procedure was painless; they gave me earplugs for the noise and angled me in a way that I was almost vertical. I don’t remember exactly how long the scan went for, but it was relaxed enough that I fell asleep. After look at my mobile afterwards, I would say it lasted approximately 30-40 minutes.

The upright MRI is a great option if you’re slightly distressed by MRI machines — you’re not running and skipping in an open field of daisies, the machine does hug you, but it doesn’t involve being treated like a cadaver in the morgue.

I’d do it again, just not with Stand Up MRI (review forthcoming).

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