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Can You Benefit from a Vertical MRI?

If you are injured, your doctors may refer you for an MRI to see if there is damage to your organs, spinal discs, or soft tissue that is not detected on x-rays. So, what can you expect? Before the scan begins, you will be asked to remove anything metallic, jewelry, watches, hair clips, and the like. Your technician will ask you about previous operations or metallic implants that you have previously undergone. When the scan begins, you will be asked to lie down on a table that will slide part or all of your body into the tube-shaped cylinder of the MRI scanner. Once scanning begins, the supercooled electrical coils will generate a powerful magnetic field which is combined with radio waves.

Because of its so many benefits, having an upright MRI can be uncomfortable to one degree or another, because you may feel claustrophobic while lying down/in the machine. Your body type may prevent you from lying still comfortably inside the scanner during the scan. You may find the thumping sound inside the scanner tube unpleasant (even if you have headphones playing music). More importantly, in the case of spinal injuries, the “traditional” MRI may not accurately show the images in the position where you actually feel pain. For these reasons, you may benefit from an upright open MRI.

First developed in 1996, open upright MRI (also known as standing MRI) can effectively address many of the concerns patients experience with these procedures. In an open MRI, the patient walks between two large MRI devices and stands or can sit in a chair that raises or lowers her body into the proper position. The front and top of the machine are open. The scan usually takes less time than a traditional MRI, and patients may be able to watch television during the procedure.

In many instances, the scan is less expensive than a traditional MRI. But the biggest benefit it offers is the opportunity to recreate the body positions in which patients feel pain, revealing the causes of injuries that could not be detected on reclining MRI scanners. For example, if you normally experience neck or back pain while sitting or standing, your scan will be while your spine is at the same weight and severity as it would be when you feel your symptoms the most. As a result, the scans can show where your spinal discs are compressed or injured in a way that a horizontal MRI might not show as well.

Of course, you will need to consult with your medical provider before choosing an open upright MRI, as there may be drawbacks specific to your situation. Traditional recumbent MRIs typically have a higher “field strength” or power in their images, resulting in clearer MRIs that show more detail. It is definitely preferable that your doctor have the best quality scans possible in order to provide the best evidence of your injuries. Some insurance plans do not cover upright open MRI. Upright MRI machines are not yet as common as traditional scanning equipment, so finding a suitable situation for your needs can be difficult. Finally, your particular symptoms may be better represented while lying down, especially if your pain is worse in that position (for example, while sleeping).

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