MRI machines use magnetic and radio waves to take images of the patient’s insides and the doctors view those images to diagnose for diseases. While Closed MRI is the more common form of MRI, Open MRI is a fit for some people.

What is an Open MRI Machine and What Does It Look Like?

Just like its name suggests, an open MRI machine consists of an open tube instead of a closed one. Patients getting MRIs don’t have to lie inside a tube if they use the open MRI. There are different types of open MRI machines and they all have different features and advantages. For instance, while using Open MRI scanners, the patients need to lie down on an examination table instead of a tube. Big magnets are positioned horizontally above and below the examination table that generates the magnetic field. Some models even allow the patient to tilt the magnets relative to the examination table to get angular planes of imaging.

Semi-open scanners are not completely open. They are partially open. The patient lies down on the examination table which has a tunnel; the area to be examined is placed there and it’s surrounded by the magnetic field. At the same time, the rest of the body is exposed to the external environment. Open advanced MRI scanners are made for people who are unable to lie down. In this type of MRI, the magnetic disks are positioned vertically with some space between them for the patient to sit or stand. The rest of the two sides remain open.

Pros & Cons of Open MRI

Open MRI provides a great solution to patients with claustrophobia or extreme anxiety, or who are overweight. Patients who are very young may benefit from open MRI. Pediatric patients usually find it hard to follow all the instructions and remain still, open MRI is a good alternative to them. Some of the latest open MRI machines also allow parents or close ones to remain with the patient during the scan.

The cons of open MRI include lower resolution images than close MRI. Open is also not preferable if the doctor wants images of small areas of the patient’s body or deep tissues. Since the magnetic field of open MRI is low, it may not give enough details needed in order to examine small or deep body structures.

Preparation for A True Open MRI

Before taking a truly open MRI exam, you should tell your doctor any kind of concern regarding metal or electronics you may have. Avoid alcohol and wear comfortable clothes. Don’t wear any jewelry or metal. Ask your doctor if you should change your regular meal for the scan.

During the scan, try to remain as still as you can. Your doctor may inject or ask you to inject contrast fluid which will help clarify the images. You will have to lie down on an exam table and a soft antenna device called a coil will be placed in the area of your body to be examined. You will hear banging or thumping noise during the exam, don’t worry about it. You can use headphones to listen to songs which will make you distracted from the noise.


An open MRI machine is ideal for some patients but it has some disadvantages, too. Unless you are really uncomfortable, a closed MRI is the better option since it produces more accurate and detailed images.


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