Some open MRIs aren't always so 'open'.

To begin with, open Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Open MRI) use the same, advanced diagnostic imaging procedure as traditional MRI machines. Both create detailed images of internal bodily structures without the use of x-rays, instead using a powerful magnet, radiowaves and a computer.

traditional MRI machine

MRI technology has dramatically advanced in the past few years and what was once considered an 'open' MRI (like the example above) has now evolved.

Traditionally, lying on a flat table or bed and slid into a tube was the norm. And the size of the tube or the opening around you and the machine itself was the criteria for how 'open' it was. The problem with those style machines is the patient is still in a very limited space – and this can cause feelings of anxiety or claustrophobia. In some cases, even the patient’s size, such as their weight or height, could prevent them from getting an MRI altogether.

Newer open MRI machines differs to that of a traditional MRI device in that instead of lying in a narrow tunnel, the imaging table itself has more space around the patient’s body. This means the magnet doing the imaging does not completely surround the person being tested. This in theory prevents a lot of unnecessary anxiety, claustrophobia and allows extremely large patients to be tested.

Other benefits to some open MRIs are use a lower field magnet and generates lower image quality or have longer scan time. They can enable the examination of small parts of the body, such as the extremities (knee, shoulder) where others can not. In addition, some systems offer imaging in different positions and sequences of movements. In many cases, the noise from the machine itself is dramatically reduced.

There are three different types of open MRI machine constructions:

    Semi open high field MRI scanners provide an ultra short bore (tunnel) and widely flared ends. In this type of MRI systems, patients lie with the head in the space outside the bore, if for example the hips are examined. See an example of a semi-open high field MRI scanner here.

    Open low field MRI machines have often a wide open design, e.g. an open C-arm scanner is shaped like two large discs separated by a large pillar. Patients have an open sided feeling and more space around them allows a wider range of positions. See an example of an open low field MRI scanner here.

    Advanced open MRI scanners combine the advantages of both, the high field strength, newest gradient technology and wide open design. Even scans of patients in upright, weight-bearing positions are possible, including sitting or even standing with nothing in front of you. See an example of an advanced open MRI scanner here.

Call your doctor or imaging facility before your next MRI and ask them what MRI they will use with you. For pictures of many of these open MRI machines with their names and descriptions, see our list to the right.

Stand up MRI locations may or may not be available near you yet. If you are going outside of your local area, make sure you call your insurance company to see if the testing will be covered under your medical insurance policy. You don't want to have the proceedure only to find out that you are on the hook for the entire bill.




GOOD SOURCES FOR FURTHER READING: Dictionary of Medical Terms, 4th Edition, from A&C Black Publishers Ltd., Grey's Anatomy, The Classic Collector's Edition, by Henry Gray, Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, Second Edition by Mayo Clinic, Howard Gallager, Mayo Foundation, Women's Health, Men's Health and Health for Seniors all by Professor Peter Abrahams, the National Cancer Institute, the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Radiology.





See what your doctor's MRI machine looks like here.

So your doctor ordered an MRI for you. Feeling claustrophobic already?

Many imaging facilities now offer new typse of MRI machines that are dramatically more 'open'. These machines can help reduce a lot of a patient's anxiety.

Call ahead and ask the facility what specific MRI machine they will use with your test. Then click the name from our list below to see pictures and descriptions of it before you go.



NOTE: Many of these including the stand up MRI machines may or may not be available near you yet. If you are going outside of your local area, make sure you call your insurance company to see if the testing will be covered under your medical insurance policy. You don't want to have the proceedure only to find out that you are on the hook for the entire bill.

If you are a imaging facility or a MRI manufacturer and would like to include your machine not already listed here, please contact us here.

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