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Healthwise Maui

Q: I have to get an MRI scan and I’m nervous. What are some tips for getting through the procedure?

Dennis McKeon, director of diagnostic imaging, Maui Memorial Medical Center: An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a way of using magnetism and radio waves to take a high-resolution, 3D picture of the organs inside your body. For the scan, you will lie down on a table that will slide you into a narrow tube. Even though the scan is noninvasive, it can be a difficult experience for some people, because of the tight enclosed space that can be cold, loud noise, and the fact that you have to remain very still for 15 minutes to as long as an hour. But with a little preparation, you can make the experience much easier.

Dress in comfortable clothing, like sweat pants, that won’t constrict, itch, or bunch up while you’re lying in the machine. You can also use a blanket if you’re feeling cold.

If you get claustrophobic or are uncomfortable in tight spaces, consider wearing a sleeping mask over your eyes, so you won’t be able to see the inside of the tube. Take slow, deep breaths, or use a technique for controlled breathing, like counting to 10 as you breathe in and out.

Be sure to communicate with your technician before the scan about any concerns or special requests (such as playing music). Diagnostic imaging departments or centers and their specialized technicians are very familiar with these common and understandable worries and can offer advice and assistance for MRI patients of all ages. For example, at Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Imaging Department, we employ complimentary alternative medicine strategies like aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the practice of using materials and aromatic oils from plants to enhance a person’s physical or psychological well-being. For our patients, and particularly those who suffer from anxiety issues such as claustrophobia, we’ve found our use of aromatherapy scents helps to relieve and sometimes diminish any psychological stress in our MRI suite.

And don’t worry, if you are uncomfortable during the procedure, you can also press a button to communicate with the technician at any time.

Finally, although most people find that they are able to make it through an MRI scan with minimal discomfort, if you’re really having trouble with the procedure, you can talk with your doctor about prescribing a sedative or anti-anxiety medication.

Q: Is Kula Hospital still a community hospital and emergency room? I am not a Kaiser member.

Rachel Corah, Emergency Department manager, Kula Hospital: Yes! Kula Hospital is a critical access hospital that provides care to the Upcountry community. Kula Hospital’s emergency room is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is open to everyone, regardless of health insurance. The hospital has an on-site laboratory and limited diagnostic imaging capabilities, so you can be treated for broken bones, infections, and other urgent health concerns without having to drive to Wailuku for care. Most times, wait time for the Kula Hospital ER is minimal.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.