An open MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner has two flat magnets on the top and bottom areas, with a large space to accommodate the patient. The “open space” in between the magnets often alleviates discomfort or claustrophobia, because the patient is not fully enclosed. This design can produce high quality images while providing optimal comfort.

Open MRI systems use the same advanced diagnostic imaging procedure as traditional closed MRI scanners. When patients are more comfortable and relaxed for their MRI, the image results are markedly better. Reducing or eliminating nervous, anxious or claustrophobic feelings is a key component to an MRI that produces quality results that are critical for a medical diagnosis.

Some open MRI systems will allow a family member or friend to be in the exam room with the person undergoing the exam. Our Capitol Imaging Services center associates will be able to determine if someone, other than the person undergoing the scan, will be allowed into the MRI suite.

When would I get an Open MRI?

Your medical provider may recommend an open MRI for those people who:

  • are claustrophobic
  • are nervous or anxious about undergoing an MRI
  • have a larger body shape, such as wide shoulders and/or hips
  • are obese
  • are elderly and may not feel comfortable in a traditional closed MRI system
  • are children and may fare much better within an open MRI design

For anyone who dislikes tight spaces, this type of MRI is the best solution. Feeling comfortable is our utmost concern.

What Will I Experience?

Before the scan, Capitol Imaging Services will need to screen you to make sure it is safe to undergo an open MRI. Some medical or electronic devices, such as implants, stents or certain pacemakers, may not be compatible with open MRI scanners. Your safety is our top priority. If it is determined that you are unable to have an MRI, other types of diagnostic tests may be recommended as alternatives, such as a CT or Ultrasound.

MRI exams are painless. However, some patients find it challenging to remain still. The scanner can be noisy. Nervous or anxious patients may be offered a mild sedative.

A patient may also ask their medical provider to prescribe a mild sedative to take before the exam.  If a mild sedative is taken, the patient will need to have someone drive them to our center and take them home once the exam is done.

It is normal for the area of your body being imaged to feel slightly warm. It is important that you remain perfectly still while the images are being recorded, which is typically only a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. You will know when images are being recorded because you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You will be able to relax between imaging sequences, but will be asked to maintain your position as much as possible.

You may be alone in the exam room during the open MRI procedure. However, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times using a two-way intercom. 

You will be offered earplugs or a headset to reduce the noise of the MRI, which produces loud thumping and humming noises during imaging. MRI scanners are air-conditioned and well-lit. Some of our scanners have music you can listen to during the test.

If you have an exam that requires an injection of intravenous contrast material, it is normal to feel coolness and a flushing sensation for a minute or two following the injection. The intravenous needle may cause you some discomfort when it is inserted and once it is removed, you may experience some bruising. There is also a very small chance of irritation of your skin at the site of the IV tube insertion.

The length of time for an MRI exam will vary. Typically, most MRI scans will last 30 to 60 minutes.