Open MRI scanners reduce anxiety in patients

8 September 2011

Patients who suffer from fear in small, enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) experience less anxiety if examined in open than in closed MRI scanners, according to a study by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin[1].

The study compared two modern MR scanners with patients with an increased risk of developing claustrophobic events.

Claustrophobia is a common challenge for performing MR imaging. In order to obtain good image quality, patients often have to lie in a narrow tube for over 30 minutes. It was found that up to 15% of all MR examinations cannot be completed because of claustrophobia or require conscious sedation for their completion.

This shows that it is of great importance to design more patient-centered MR scanners. In the present study Privatdozent Dr. Marc Dewey, chief attending of the Department of Radiology at Campus Charité Mitte, and his team compared two more open MR scanners.

 They investigated whether these new scanners could reduce the number of claustrophobic events. One of the MR scanners is a short-bore while the other is an open panoramic MR scanner. In order to take part in the study, patients had to have an increased risk of developing claustrophobia as assessed by the “Claustrophobia Questionnaire” (CLQ). 39% of patients examined in the short-bore MR scanner developed a claustrophobic event compared to 26% in the open panoramic scanner.

These event rates were higher than expected, and the differences between the two scanners remained non-significant. Nonetheless, claustrophobic events were reduced in comparison to prior examinations in conventional MR scanners where 56% of the patients had claustrophobic events. Moreover, the CLQ significantly correlated with the occurrence of claustrophobic events.

“The CLQ may thus be a useful tool to detect patients at risk before claustrophobia occurs. Further developments towards a more patient-centered MR scanner environment are clearly needed to make this important diagnostic test available to all patients”, explains Privatdozent Dr Dewey.


1. Enders et al. Reduction of Claustrophobia with Short-Bore versus Open Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23494. doi:10.1371


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