Why are sedatives prescribed for MRI?
While MRI is, in itself, a painless procedure that many patients find very tolerable, it can be difficult for some to endure due to the need to remain still in an enclosed space for extended periods. Those who experience intense anxiety or claustrophobia can have an especially hard time successfully completing an MRI. Because the information obtainable with this procedure can have great value in diagnosing problems and guiding treatments, doctors often prescribe sedatives to help patients through the procedure.
What types of sedatives do doctors prescribe for MRI?
Depending on the level of anxiety a patient experiences, either oral benzodiazepines or IV conscious sedation may be prescribed. If you use any sedative medication for your exam, you will need to arrange a safe ride home in advance and avoid driving or any other activity that requires you to be fully alert and able bodied until the medication has completely worn off. Durations vary from one medication to the next, so ask your doctor or pharmacist how long that is likely to be.
Many patients find that an oral benzodiazepine, such as Xanax, Ativan, or Valium, taken prior to the exam sufficiently relieves their anxiety and allows them to complete an MRI with relative ease. Benzodiazepines can ease anxiety as well as relax muscles, potentially making it more comfortable to remain still on the exam table. If you think this type of oral medication may be a good option for you, talk to your referring physician, who will choose one suited to your individual condition and medical history.
Be sure to take benzodiazepines only as your doctor advises, as misuse can lead to physical dependence. Common side effects include dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, and loss of equilibrium. Some patients also report headache, confusion, aggression, and sleep disturbances.
IV Conscious Sedation
Some patients may require more powerful medication in order to overcome the anxiety they experience during an MRI and successfully complete the procedure. Versed (generically known as midazolam) and fentanyl are two medications commonly used in conjunction to alleviate pain, aid relaxation, and reduce a patient’s memory of the procedure. Versed is a benzodiazepine that causes drowsiness, forgetfulness, and relaxation, and fentanyl is an opioid (narcotic) that reduces pain. If you are unable to complete an MRI, ask your doctor if this is an appropriate option for you.
How can I use sedatives as safely as possible?
Before taking any type of sedative, be sure to thoroughly discuss all of your current medications and your health history with your physician, making sure you communicate any of the following conditions:
- Known allergies to medications
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Any type of breathing disorder, such as asthma or lung disease
- Liver or kidney disease
- Any chronic illness
Also, make sure you understand how medication you take after your procedure may interact with any residual sedatives in your system. For example, some drugs that induce sleepiness, like alcohol, allergy medications, sleeping pills, or muscle relaxants, can intensify and/or extend the effects of sedatives. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should wait before taking any additional medication you may require.
Finally, don’t overlook non-drug options for helping you relax. However safe, no drug is completely without side effects. Headsets to drown out noise and let you enjoy relaxing music, pillows or blankets for extra comfort, or even a friend or family member to be by your side may help you get through an MRI without the added complication of medication.
If there is anything we can do to help you be more comfortable during your MRI at Iowa Radiology, please let us know. We understand that medical procedures are often very stressful, and we’ll do our best to make it as easy as possible for you. If you suffer from claustrophobia, ask about our wide-bore MRI machine for enhanced comfort.
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The information contained in the Iowa Radiology website is presented as public service information only. It is not intended to be nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice.You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider if you think you may have a medical problem before starting any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding your medical condition.
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"Versed." WebMD.com. WebMD, LLC, n.d. Web. 11 Aug 2016.