Some patients experience signs of claustrophobia during their CT scan, MRI, and or certain types of imaging procedures that require them to lay still in a confined space. Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate or at least minimize their level of anxiety.
This type of anxiety disorder results in intense, irrational fear in tight spaces such as elevators, crowded rooms, and medical imaging machines like MRIs and CT scans. Experts suggest that it might stem from traumatic events like experiencing turbulence when flying or being trapped in an enclosed area like cabinets.
Meanwhile, some psychiatrists believe that claustrophobia or any intense, irrational phobia might be related to dysfunction of the amygdala, a part of the brain that controls how you process fear.
As with any type of phobia, claustrophobia is different for anyone in terms of the level of intensity, ranging from mild nervousness to a full-blown panic attack in which the symptoms are almost similar to heart attacks: shortness of breath, numbness of feet and hands, dizziness, fainting, choking sensation, chest pain, trembling, and heart palpitations.
Some people who have experienced extreme symptoms of claustrophobia describe the feeling as if they’re going to die or the world is going to end.
Interestingly, many people with claustrophobia know that their intense fear is irrational.
Aside from symptoms and intensity, the triggers also differ from person to person. For instance, some may feel extreme anxiety when riding in an elevator, although plane travel is a “tolerable” experience for them. In contrast, some people can’t travel via aircraft or boat because of their intense phobia, but for some reason, they only experience mild [and manageable] anxiety when using an elevator or being in a small crowded room.
CT scans, MRIs, and bone scans require enclosed or semi-enclosed medical imaging machines to capture images of the area of concern. Due to the tight space, some patients may experience high levels of anxiety and fear, making it difficult for them to stay still.
It is important to stay perfectly still during medical imaging because even the slightest movement can blur the image. Some machines like CT scans of the abdomen and chest even require patients to hold their breath between 10 and 25 seconds.
Aside from the tight space, intense anxiety during a medical imaging procedure may also stem from the loudness or “weird” beeping sound of the machine. Some claustrophobic patients have also reported fear of being injured or suffocated during their CT scans or MRIs.
Some patients have also experienced high anxiety levels after the procedure as they wait for their test results.
The list below could provide a better patient experience:
If you have a history of anxiety disorder or have claustrophobia, your doctor might recommend a mild sedative to help you stay relaxed during your medical imaging procedure. Sometimes, medications are prescribed alongside a psychotherapy treatment.
Drugs that may be used right before a medical imaging procedure include beta-blockers, Benzodiazepines, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs.
If you’re having an MRI scan, you can ask your technician to play a soothing playlist. (Note: MRI machines are particularly loud, which may bother some patients.)
If you are bothered by the banging noise from MRI machines, you may want to ask your doctor if a CT scan is a good alternative.
Aside from being shorter and less noisy than MRIs, CT scans are better at providing accurate images that can help your doctor diagnose your injury or disease more easily.
On the other hand, if your main concern is the tight space, ask your doctor if you can have an ultrasound or an open upright MRI instead.
Good communications between technologists and patients also play a critical role in reducing anxiety and symptoms of claustrophobia. In general, people who receive specific details (e.g., how long the test will take and how it will be like) will have a better experience than those left in the dark.
To learn more about better patient experience during a medical imaging procedure, contact Catalina Imaging at (844) 949-1664 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They have mobile CT scans in multiple locations like California, North Carolina, Illinois, and Minnesota.