News Headlines Article

Claustrophobia can turn MRI into frightening experience
Washington Post

The thought of an MRI scanner, a coffinlike, hard-plastic tube with a ceiling just inches above the patient’s eyes, has long filled Patrice Mitchell with dread.

The 64-year-old freelance editor and former journalist from Rochester, N.Y., has never been afraid of small spaces such as elevators. But she gets intensely claustrophobic when pulling anything — a sweater, for example — over her face and it gets caught. “If it gets stuck momentarily,” she says, “I immediately start to feel quite panicky and feel like I may have trouble breathing.”

Short of invasive surgery to probe for suspected cancerous tumors, brain aneurysms, heart problems, abdominal infections and spinal problems, nothing is more effective at unmasking an ailment than cramming a patient into a doughnut-shaped tunnel armed with formidable magnetic imaging capability.