Before scan information

A good way of reducing anxiety is to get prior information about your upcoming MRI scan. Your imagination about MRI scans may well be worse than the real thing.

Correct information can replace unpleasant exaggerated imagination. You might be able to get information about your MRI scan by visiting the website of your scan centre. They may have pictures and videos of the actual MRI scanners that they use. 

It might be useful to visit the MRI scan centre in person as that itself will reduce your unknowns such as how to get there etc. They may even be able to show you around and put you at ease.

Inform the scan centre that you are nervous about the scan. Remember it’s not that uncommon that people are nervous, so do not feel shy about telling them. That way they will be prepared and may be able to reassure you.

Ask them approximately how long your MRI scan will take. This will help you to appropriately practice for your scan.

Some MRI scans require a dye (called “contrast”) to be injected into one of your veins during the scan. This can make certain scans give additional information. You can ask your MRI centre if this is so for your scan so that you won’t be surprised about it on the day. The staff at MRI centres are very used to injecting this dye. 

The MRI centre may be able to play music during your scan. You can tell them ahead what type of music you like so that they can play what suits you best. You might be able to provide your music, but you cannot use your own music player or headphones, as these will interfere with the scanner. Instead, you may need to provide music on a memory USB stick/ CD etc. All this you can verify with the MRI  scanner staff beforehand.

You may be able to bring a relative or friend to be with you in the scanner room, during the MRI scan. Of course, you won’t be able to have the person lie with you in the scanner! Instead, the person may be able to touch you (e.g. feet) to reassure you during the scan. The option of having someone with you in the scanning room may not always be possible, as different scanning centres have different policies regarding this. It’s important to respect their policies, though staff will be as helpful as they can.

Regarding having someone with you in the scanning room, consider if the person you choose will help you or make things unintentionally worse. The scanning staff will also need to make sure the person doesn’t have certain issues that make it unsafe for them to be in the scanning room.

Some MRI scanning centres will allow children (and adults!) to bring a soft toy into the scanner to keep company. However, the toy will have to be checked for any metallic content and other safety issues before being allowed in the MRI scanner. 

Another thing to check ahead of your scan is the possibility of getting your doctor to prescribe a one-off mild sedative which can be taken before your scan. This is not an uncommon request. If you are prescribed a sedative, remember to ask how much time before the scan should you take it. On the day, tell the scan centre that you have been prescribed a sedative so that they can inform you when the scan is likely to take place. This will help you to time your sedative. After your scan, because you have had a sedative, the scan centre may insist that you have someone to accompany you home.

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