Phenomenology of distress in MRI

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation only


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 methodologies4-8. A deep and holistic qualitative understanding of the lived experience of distress while undergoing MRI is currently lacking, particularly in the Australian context1,8,9.

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 design10-12. 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. Charles Sturt University HREC approved, Number H19498.

Results: Eight participants were interviewed, providing a deep and rich insight into their lived experience of distress. Several themes of meaning emerged during data analysis to include isolation, proprioception and spatiality, distress as an existential threat, self-soothing strategies, dehumanisation and reduced agency, and ‘a void in post procedure care’.

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) mediated by the MRI practitioner.

Keywords: MRI, phenomenology, lived experience, distress, qualitative
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2022
EventANZMRRN & SCoR Qualitative Research Webinar: International collaboration - Online
Duration: 19 Nov 202219 Nov 2022

Online presentation

Online presentationANZMRRN & SCoR Qualitative Research Webinar
Abbreviated titleQualitative Research
Internet address


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