3 Reasons to Choose Open MRI Scans

When should patients consider an open MRI scan?

An open MRI machine features open areas on both sides, as opposed to the tube-like design used on a traditional MRI machine. It doesn’t fully surround the patient. Modern open MRIs are capable of capturing high-quality diagnostic images, and they usually don’t take any longer than a traditional MRI, but open-unit MRIs are often more expensive.

There are some excellent reasons to choose an open MRI:

1. Open MRIs are ideal for patients with claustrophobia.

The most obvious reason to get an open MRI is to prevent claustrophobia. Older MRI machines were dark, noisy, and compact; patients with even mild cases of claustrophobia had trouble undergoing examinations in these devices. Many patients inquire about open-unit examinations for this reason.

However, we should note that newer closed MRIs are much more comfortable. Many have built-in lighting, fairly wide openings, and powerful hardware that allows for a fast, safe scan. Even so, claustrophobic patients frequently prefer the 270-degree unobstructed view of an open-unit device.

2. Open MRIs are capable of accommodating a variety of body types.

The other obvious advantage of open MRI machines is that they’re capable of performing examinations on patients of all weights and sizes. They’re even preferable for some patients with normal bodies and broad shoulders, since the basic design of the machinery allows for a more comfortable scan.

If you’re considering an open MRI for this reason, be sure to tell your facility when booking your appointment. Different machines have different weight and size limitations.

3. Children often behave better in open MRI devices.

In order to capture images as accurately as possible, MRI machines require patients to remain motionless. Understandably, some children have trouble with this concept, and traditional MRIs can compound the difficulty by physically separating kids from their parents and doctors.

Open MRIs provide a better experience for many children, and many machines are specifically built to prevent small amounts of motion from distorting the results.

What else should I know when choosing between closed and open MRIs?

If you don’t have a reason to opt for an open-unit MRI, don’t feel pressured. Modern closed-unit MRI equipment is quite comfortable, and the average test takes from 30-60 minutes. If you’re able to sit still for a short length of time, a closed MRI will work just fine.

With that said, open MRI technology is both comfortable and reliable, so it’s a valid option in the vast majority of cases. Still, there are several drawbacks to the technology.

First, open examinations typically carry a higher cost, since the equipment is more expensive to purchase and maintain. You can greatly limit the costs by comparing costs online before booking your appointment.

Because open MRIs don’t completely surround patients, they’re also inherently less powerful. Closed MRIs often provide a magnetic strength of 1.5 to 3.0 Tesla units (T), while open MRIs typically peak around 1.2T.

That’s not to say that an open MRI is less capable of studying certain body structures—provided that you work with an experienced team of technicians, the quality of your diagnostic examination should be about the same.

To learn more about open MRI scans, or to book an appointment, call BestPriceMRI.com at 888-322-7785. Most of our locations offer affordable open MRI scans in a comfortable environment.


Sarracanie, Mathiea et. al. “Low-Cost High-Performance MRI.Nature. Macmillan Publishers Limited, 5 May 2015. Web. 23 June 2017.