Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a sophisticated diagnostic test that uses a powerful, electromagnetic imaging machine that takes clear snapshots of the organs and soft tissues in your body. Doctors recommend this test when they want to check your organ or any part of your body visually without performing any invasive or surgical procedure.

MRI is very safe: there’s no radiation, pain or any tissue damage. It can, however, make people feel claustrophobic when they are inside the MRI machine.

Fortunately, open and upright MRI scanners now exist as a way to address this problem.


What Is Open Upright MRI?

The original MRI scanners require patients to lie as still as they can on a narrow bed that goes inside a massive, tunnel-like machine. Once inside, patients will hear loud thumping and tapping sounds as the technician in an adjacent room takes scans.

Doctors often scan only certain areas of the body, like the brain or the general location of the organ in question. A whole-body scan may be requested if needed. So, the typical MRI scan should take 15-90 minutes.

Lying alone in a narrow tunnel surrounded by loud noises and flashing lights is bearable for a couple of minutes; but what if you have to be there for over 15 minutes straight? It can be terrifying to some people, which is why open upright MRI is a significant medical break-through.


What to Expect During an Upright MRI Scan

As the name suggests, an open upright MRI doesn’t require patients to lie immobile inside a tiny space. Most upright MRIs resemble a three-walled cubicle with concave walls on either side with a space in the centre where you can stand or sit, depending on which area of your body is being scanned. Two large magnets lie above and below the patient’s standing/sitting area.

The design for upright MRIs can vary, but the common denominators are:

    • Patients aren’t enclosed in a tunnel.
    • Patients can see the rest of the room and talk directly with the technician operating the machine.
    • The machines are designed for claustrophobic individuals.

On the day of your MRI scan, you’ll be asked to wear a gown and store your clothes and possessions in a locker. You must take off all accessories, especially metallic items and jewellery. The radiographer will then show you to the MRI room and instruct whether you should stand, sit or recline. You’ll also be shown how to position your body so that the machine can get clear scans.

The radiographer may also give you an injection of contrast dye. This is sometimes necessary, depending on which part of the body is being scanned. The dye will register in the scan, producing a sharper and clearer image when soft tissues would otherwise appear blurred.

Apart from the noise being possibly just as loud as the traditional MRI, a patient’s experience with an open upright MRI is dramatically less distressful.


How Much Does an Upright MRI Scan Cost in the UK?

An open upright MRI scan costs a little more than a conventional MRI. The price per scan will vary depending on how long it takes to complete a scan and how many body parts are scanned during the session.


Can I Have an Open MRI Scan on the NHS?

Yes, you may. Check with your doctor or consultant and ask for a referral to an NHS-provider with an open upright MRI.  Alternatively, you can refer yourself for an Upright MRI, it is more affordable than you perhaps think.

Another question you might have is, are MRI scans free on the NHS? The answer is yes if you get scanned via an NHS provider. However, the waiting list can span weeks, even months. If your doctor advises a swift diagnosis, or if your condition doesn’t give you the luxury of waiting, it will be better to get the scan via personal health insurance. Also it may be more difficult to be approved for an Open Upright MRI on the NHS, as the cost is greater.


Enquire for a Scan at Upright MRI

If you or someone you know needs to get a scan as soon as possible, Upright MRI can help. We accept private patient and NHS patient referrals for open upright MRI scans at our clinics in Central London, Leeds and Birmingham.  You don’t even require a referral but you can simply self-refer online.

Read our FAQ page if you have questions about our procedures and fill out our enquiry form for consultations and other concerns.


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