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Open vs. Closed MRI Machine

Dec 10, 2020

Open vs. Closed MRI MachineIf you have been in a car accident or suffered an injury, you may be referred for an MRI as a part of your diagnostic scanning. Many people are fearful of MRIs because they have seen the machines before and worry about feeling trapped, especially if they suffer from claustrophobia. The traditional MRI machine is a closed machine, but open machines are becoming increasingly available. If you are in need of scans at an Atlanta MRI imaging center, you can learn about open and closed MRI machines to determine which one is the best option for you.

What Is an MRI Machine?

Magnetic resonance imaging, commonly known as MRI, is a type of imaging device that uses radio waves and magnetic waves to produce images of internal organs. These can be analyzed to identify abnormalities in the organs, bones, soft tissues, and joints because the waves’ combined effects highlight the body, making them more visible and detailed than other scans allow.

MRI machines have allowed doctors to study internal organs and diagnose conditions much more effectively than they could in the past. Brain and ENT conditions are particularly easier to study through the use of these machines, as well as musculoskeletal and spinal problems.
While the typical MRI is done in a closed machine, there is the option of having the same scan done in a more open machine. However, there are slight differences in the two systems, so it is important to understand the benefits of each before making a decision on what type of Atlanta MRI you’d like.

Closed MRI Machines

Closed MRI MachineA closed MRI machine is a capsule or tube-like space that you lie in the center of while images are taken of your body. So, how does the closed MRI work? The large system includes the magnet and radio waves needed for imaging, and an attached computer converts these signals into the images your doctor will evaluate. You usually need to be inside of the machine for 30 to 90 minutes while photos are taken, and you may be given instructions on when to be still or to breathe in particular ways.

The fact that you will likely need to be still while stuck in a tight space is the biggest downside to a closed MRI. In addition to these conditions, the closed MRI machine can be very loud. This can all be particularly difficult for someone with anxiety, claustrophobia, or who is unable to fit in a closed machine. However, closed MRIs can often capture higher quality images in a shorter amount of time, making them more likely to diagnose a broad range of problems.

Open MRI Machines

Open MRI MachinesThese machines use the same magnet and radio waves to produce images, but rather than an enclosed capsule, there are magnetic panels placed above and below you as the scan occurs, while all four sides are open. If you are someone who suffers from anxiety and claustrophobia, this simple change can make your MRI more tolerable and more accurate as you are relaxed while it occurs. This also makes them a good choice for children who are able to have a parent or caretaker with them during the scan.

Open MRI machines also have a few features that are not available in the closed machines. Technologists are able to tilt the machines so you are in a standing position when it is helpful to a diagnosis. They are also more advanced than many closed machines.

In addition, open MRI machines can help patients in a number of practical ways. They can be more cost-effective because they require less maintenance and upfront costs. They also produce fewer artifacts when metal implants are present, meaning you can get a clearer image if you have metal that cannot be removed from your body.

However, some Atlanta MRI technicians are hesitant to offer open MRI imaging. The picture quality can vary due to weaker magnets in an open system, though they can also be equally helpful. The open scanner does take a longer time than the closed system, which is already not a fast process.

The Bottom Line

Neither the open or closed MRI machine is better in all cases. If you are worried about a closed machine, using an open one may ease your anxiety and allow you to avoid taking sedatives for anxiety or feeling extra stress. But if this is not a concern and you are focused on pinpointing a diagnosis, a closed machine may be the best option for you. You should speak with your Atlanta MRI technician about what types of MRIs they offer and which may the best for your condition. At AICA Orthopedics, our team can walk you through these pros and cons to develop an imaging plan that meets your needs.


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