Being distressed in MRI: an existential threat

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Background: The MRI environment is synonymous with claustrophobia,1 however, the causes of distress are diverse and multifactorial.2 Prior research examining distress in MRI have pre- dominantly focussed on claustrophobia,3 adopted quantitative approaches,4 or the practitioner perspective.2 There is a paucity of qualitative research5 exploring the patient perspective6 within an Australian context.7

Aim: To investigate the lived experience of adults who experienced distress during a clinical MRI examination by understanding the meaning (essence) of their distress (phenomenon).

Methods: This qualitative study adopted a constructivist-interpreti- vist paradigm8 and a hermeneutic phenomenology methodology.9 The population were adults from regional and rural New South Wales who had experienced ‘distress’ during a clinical MRI exami- nation. Lived experience data was collected through two stage semi-structured interviews. Human research ethics was granted.

Results: Eight participants were interviewed, which provided a deep and holistic insight into their lived experience of MRI. All par- ticipants described “being distressed in MRI” as an immediate and existential threat resulting in hypo-arousal leading to emotional and psychological distress. Each participant’s experience and mani- festation of distress was individual and unique. This oral presenta- tion explores the diverse and typically non-claustrophobic nature of ‘being distressed in MRI’.

Conclusions: Contemporaneous internal, external contributing and confounding factors contribute to an aggregated level of arousal or distress in MRI. These can be physical, emotional and psychologi- cal, and are not just a manifestation of claustrophobia. MRI practi- tioners need to be aware of the diverse nature of distress within this environment to be able to provide effective individualised per- son-centred care.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of Medical Radiation Sciences
Subtitle of host publicationSpecial Issue: ASMIRT 2024: Colours of Country – Community, Resilience, Innovation. Annual Scientific Meeting of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy – 18th National Conference
PublisherWiley Online Library
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024
EventASMIRT 2024: Colours of Country - Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin, Australia
Duration: 09 May 202412 May 2024


ConferenceASMIRT 2024
Abbreviated titleCommunity Resilience Innovation
Internet address


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