Sunday, December 19, 2010

Panic in the MRI Tube

Clearly the worse time to discover that you have claustrophobia is during your first MRI. Yep. That’s when I found out.

At first I thought it would be a very relaxing experience. The room was quiet, it was painted a pretty light blue and there was a faux window scene painted on the ceiling. I saw clouds, flowers and green trees. I swear I heard birds twittering. I was really very relaxed. Eyes closed, I laid on the scanning bed, slid into the MRI tube and practically fell asleep. Again, I was really very relaxed. I even managed to dismiss the obnoxious MRI bangs and continued to lie still all whilst enjoying the music piping through the chamber’s speaker systems. Until. I. Opened. My. Eyes.

‘Mon Dieu this is a tight space’, I thought. The ceiling of the MRI tube practically touched my nose. Somehow, despite the obvious fact that I knew I was in a small chamber, seeing the light tan ceiling millimeters away from my face stirred a reaction. I was panicking. After a few moments, I asked myself, ‘How long have I been holding my breath’? I tried to remain calm, knowing that I needed to get through the MRI to help make a diagnosis. I tried deep yoga breaths instead.  I only made it to 4.  ‘Oh boy’, I thought, ‘I’m in trouble’. I started having visions of the ceiling closing down on my chest. Again, I tried hard to do some more yoga breaths. Still only a 4.  My breaths were so quick that I was afraid I would get kicked out of the tube for movement. Staying 100% still was mission critical. Besides there was a needle stuck in my arm for the contrast thingy. I did not want that to jiggle out. Good grief.  I was a mess. Disappointed that I couldn’t fight the anxiety, I survived with seemingly thousands of panicky short breaths until it was finally over. ‘I’m claustrophobic’ I announced to the MRI guy as I slid out of the tube. He wasn’t that interested but I was certainly worried. ‘How will I survive panic in the MRI tube next time’? I wondered.

Several months later, when my next round of scans was due, I called my neuro doc.

‘Hello Lorazepam. It’s so nice to meet you’.

I have an MRI scheduled for Monday evening and it always reminds me of this episode. Wish me luck!   


  1. Lorazepam has saved my butt in the tube. Won't go in one now without a pill...or several. Good luck.

  2. i had never had an MRI prior to October, when suddenly i had to go for 3 of the blasted things!

    i did pretty alright for the head and thoracic portions...but the cervical was a different story altogether.... when they laid me down flat, unable to move and then said "Don't Swallow"... what??!! no way... really? how does one lay flat on the back for more than an hour and not swallow? what do you do with the naturally made saliva slowly trickling down the back of your throat? choke?

    not looking forward to the next round....

  3. @ Karen: Lorazepam saved my butt too! I think I fell asleep in the tube!
    @ Sherri: Strange about the "don't swallow" rule! It seems near impossible.


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