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  • Open MRI Comfortable for Everyone


Kathy Risch

Kathy Risch

Open MRI patient

Harrison, Michigan

"With the open machine, you don’t feel at all confined. Not being in that tube made all the difference in the world. It’s still noisy, of course, but I really liked being able to have the choice to use the Open MRI."

Open MRI is Comfortable for Everyone

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one of the most advanced diagnostic examinations available. It is safe, painless and noninvasive. Most people who undergo MRI can tolerate the temporary noise and close quarters. However, for the small percentage of the population who suffer from severe claustrophobia, undergoing tradition MRI can be more than merely uncomfortable.

For 57-year-old Kathy Risch of Harrison, the experience was cause for panic. Kathy was ready to forego needed surgery rather than endure another closed MRI.

“When I had one a couple of years ago I felt like my heart was coming out of my chest and I couldn’t control my breathing,” she said. “I clamped my eyes shut and tried to think of something else, anything other than where I was.”

Kathy has never liked closed-in spaces but blames her claustrophobia on a long-ago incident in a stalled elevator.

“I spent more than an hour huddled in the corner of a small elevator. Ever since then, I can’t stand closed-in places,” she said. “I even keep the window blinds open all the time at home! 

When her orthopaedic surgeon, John Murphy, D.O., told her she needed a MRI before undergoing shoulder surgery, Kathy told him she was just too claustrophobic to go though the ordeal again.

Dr. Murphy suggested she try the open MRI at MidMichigan Medical Center– Midland.

“I didn’t know what it was, but after he described it, I decided to give it a try.”

Patient comfort is the key design feature of the Open MRI. Instead of the tunnel shape of a traditional “closed” MRI magnet, the Open MRI features a vertically opposed magnet configuration. It also produces the high-quality images physicians expect and require.

For patients like Kathy, the Open MRI means she can get the diagnostic tests she needs.

“With the open machine, you don’t feel at all confined,” she said. “Not being in that tube made all the difference in the world. It’s still noisy, of course, but I really liked being able to have the choice to use the Open MRI.”

Kathy and her husband, Dan, live in Harrison and are glad to have such innovative health care options close to home.

“I would encourage anyone to ask about the new Open MRI at MidMichigan. It’s just wonderful.”

Many patients who are not clinically claustrophobic simply prefer the less restrictive environment, and the open configuration is more comfortable for larger patients. The Open MRI also allows the positioning of any part of the anatomy, including shoulders and wrists, directly in the center of the magnet, ensuring outstanding image quality for parts of the anatomy that have traditionally been difficult to scan.



Kathy Risch's story is just one example of MidMichigan’s advanced technology and physician expertise.  If you or a family member is concerned about having a MRI, ask your doctor for a referral to a MidMichigan specialist, or call MidMichigan Health Line for a physician referral toll-free at (800) 999-3199.  Online, visit