Claustrophobia is an incredibly real disease, with up to 5% of the US population formally diagnosed. In diagnostic imaging, that number is skewed even further. At least 13% of patients receiving an MRI have reported having a panic attack during their procedure, and many more come to us expressing concern about claustrophobia.
If you’re claustrophobic and you have to get an MRI, the bad news is that you’ll have to face your fears. The good news, however, is that each and every day there are people working to find ways to make the MRI experience more comfortable for patients who suffer from claustrophobia.
Open MRI machines are a great start to the solution, because they offer significantly more space for patients. You’re not constricted inside a narrow tunnel, instead you have more space and can see the room and the people around you. While this can be a huge comfort for many patients, those with severe claustrophobia may require even more help. Thankfully, companies like Toshiba have found a solution.
The Toshiba Corporation teamed up with the Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation to develop a virtual reality technology to help minimize claustrophobia. The technology includes a semi-transparent dome screen that is moved in synchronization with the patient table. The screen is installed inside the MRI bore, and images are then projected onto the screen and bore cover from a projector installed behind the MRI system. In simpler terms, they’re projecting a movie or a series of images onto the inside of the MRI machine so that instead of looking and seeing a closed tunnel ceiling, you’re watching a movie.
The best part about the whole thing? The screen is located at the entrance of the bore, and moves into the machine at the same time as the patient. This means that patients never really see themselves entering into the “tunnel”, so patient anxiety related to the examination space is reduced before the exam even begins.
Toshiba hasn’t formally released the product into the market yet, but they’ve got plans to release it in the very near future. The technology is pretty cutting edge, and doctors have high hopes for what different products like this can do to help patients with claustrophobia have more comfortable and successful MRI experiences.
You can read more about it here.