Dehumanisation and reduced agency during magnetic resonance imaging

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation onlypeer-review


Background: Despite significant improvements in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment/environment and a plethora of medical interventions1, many individuals undergoing MRI experience distress on a daily basis2. Prior research examining this phenomenon has predominantly been underpinned by traditional, positivistic scientific methodologies with a bias towards investigating ‘claustrophobia’1,2,3,4,5. A deep and holistic understanding of the lived experience of distress while undergoing MRI is currently lacking, particularly in the Australian context1,6,7.

Aim: To investigate the lived experience of adults who have experienced distress during a clinical MRI examination and give a voice to their perspectives.

Research question: “What is the lived experience of distress during a clinical MRI examination?”
Methods: Hermeneutic Phenomenology is the philosophical framework and qualitative research methodology informing the study design8. Phenomenology provides the framework to collect and understand the lived experience of distress (phenomenon), whilst hermeneutics is a process of interpreting the meaning of the experience through textual analysis8,9,10. Participants were recruited from regional NSW Australia who had experienced distress during MRI scan within the last six months. Data collection was obtained through semi-structured interviews conducted via Zoom videoconference.

Results: Eight participants were interviewed, providing a deep and rich insight into their lived experience of distress. Emergent themes of meaning following data analysis include isolation, proprioception and spatiality, MRI as an existential threat, dehumanisation, self-soothing strategies, reduced agency, and a void in patient care post procedure. This oral presentation will specifically explore the interwoven themes of dehumanisation and reduced agency.

Conclusions: Contemporaneous internal and external contributing and confounding factors contribute to the lived experience of distress in MRI, which occurs at the intersection between the individual (human) and MRI (machine) and is mediated by the practitioner. All participants described feeling like they were an object and experienced a machine-like process (mechanistic dehumanisation) with a resultant loss of their capacity to act and make informed decisions for themselves (agency).

Keywords: MRI, phenomenology, lived experience, distress, qualitative

1. Munn, Z., Moola, S., Lisy, K., Riitano, D. & Murphy, F. Claustrophobia in magnetic resonance imaging: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Radiography.2015. 21(1),59-63.
2. Hudson, D.M., Heales, C. & Vine, S.J. Radiographer Perspectives on current occurrence and management of claustrophobia in MRI. Radiography. 2021.
3. Munn, Z. & Jordan, Z. The patient experience of high technology medical imaging: a systematic review of the qualitative evidence. Radiography. 2011.17(4),323-31.
4. Mubarak, F., Bain, K. & Anwar, S.S.M. Claustrophobia during Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Cohort of 8 Years. International Neuropsychiatric Disease Journal. 2015.3(4),106-111.
5. van Minde, D., Klaming, L., & Weda, H. Pinpointing Moments of High Anxiety During an MRI Examination. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2014.21, 487-495.
6. Hewis, J. Do MRI Patients Tweet? Thematic Analysis of Patient Tweets About Their MRI Experience. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, 2015.46,396-402.
7. Hofmann, B. & Svenaeus, F. How medical technologies shape the experience of illness. Life Sciences, Society and Policy. 2018.14:3,2-11.
8. Creswell, J. Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. Fourth Edition. London, Sage Publications Inc. 2014.
9. van Manen, M. But Is It Phenomenology? Editorial. Qualitative Health Research. 2017.27(6), 775-779.
10. van Manen, M. Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Second Edition. New York: Routledge.2016.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 03 Sep 2022
EventASMIRT Mid North Coast Imaging and Therapy Conference 2022 - Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie, Australia
Duration: 03 Sep 202203 Sep 2022


ConferenceASMIRT Mid North Coast Imaging and Therapy Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleKoality of Life - Recalibrate, rejuvenate, reconnect
CityPort Macquarie
OtherThe 2022 Mid North Coast Imaging and Therapy Conference - "Koality of Life: recalibrate / rejuvenate / reconnect" will be held on 03 September 2022 at Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie. This conference was put on hold, like many events in the last couple of years, due to the Covid pandemic. Our region has also faced its fair share of hardships with not just the global pandemic, but floods and fires too. The aim of this conference is to get people back together, with a particular focus on a "person-centred approach" to healthcare delivery, putting patients and practitioners at the centre of the service. In addition to this, the Mid North Coast is a hub for the ageing retiree population, so papers focused on aged care would also be welcome. Come spend the weekend in beautiful Port Macquarie, connecting with friends and other professionals.

We encourage all MRPs and students to submit an abstract for consideration to present at Mid North Coast Imaging and Therapy Conference 2022. We are anticipating a thought provoking and exciting day with presentations by all disciplines that will support the development and well-being of patients and professionals.

The theme for the 2022 Mid North Coast Imaging and Therapy Conference is "Koality of Life". The conference will be a time to recalibrate, rejuvenate and reconnect.
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