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Deciding Between Open and Closed MRI: Finding the Right Fit for Your Imaging and Scanning Needs

Deciding Between Open and Closed MRI: Finding the Right Fit for Your Imaging and Scanning Needs
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An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan, is a revolutionary diagnostic tool that lets your GP have a clear picture of your body’s internal structures without exposing you to ionising radiation. 

In modern medical practice, an MRI is an indispensable tool that significantly improves the accuracy of diagnosis.

However, all MRI scans are not the same. You have two main options— an open or a closed MRI.

Closed MRI machines typically involve you lying in a narrow tube-like structure. Open MRI machines, on the other hand, are designed to have open sides. They provide a much less confining experience, making them great for larger patients, children, and people with claustrophobia.

However, choosing between an open vs. closed MRI machine isn’t just about comfort. It involves considering several other factors, including your diagnostic requirements.

This article aims to demystify these two types of MRI procedures, helping you decide which is best for your specific needs. We will examine the differences in detail and consider some advantages and disadvantages.

Differences between an open MRI and a closed MRI

While both the closed and open MRI machines work on the same basic principle, the way they take images differs significantly. You are pretty much confined in a small, tube-like structure when getting a closed MRI, which can be uncomfortable for children and some people with severe anxiety.

An open system, however, offers a much better patient experience as the instrument is not as claustrophobic as a closed system.

The differences between an open vs. closed MRI machine go beyond this. Here are a few key differences you must understand before making your choice: 

Overall design and structure of the machine

When you think of MRI machines, you are probably thinking about traditional closed machines. It features a relatively narrow tube a patient slides into before taking their scan. While this design is restrictive, it is integral to producing high magnetic field strength. 

Consequently, a closed MRI scanner can generate high-intensity magnetic fields for crisper and more detailed images.

On the other hand, an open MRI machine often has open sides, making them significantly less claustrophobic and accommodating for larger patients. 

However, as you can imagine, the open design sacrifices magnetic field strength, meaning that open MRI scanners produce less detailed scans than closed MRI machine images. 

Quality and detail of the images produced

As closed MRI produces a much more intense magnetic field, it generates high-resolution images with plenty of detail. If your doctor needs to scan smaller organs or fine structures in your body, they may prefer you get a closed MRI.

Open MRI produces a weaker magnetic field and slightly lower image quality. While this system is still very effective for several diagnostic purposes, an open MRI might not capture images at the same level of detail as a closed MRI, particularly for smaller and more intricate areas of your body. 

Comfort, accessibility, and overall experience

Getting into the narrow bore of a closed MRI can be a challenge for some people, especially if they have claustrophobia. It is also difficult for children to remain in such a confined space long enough for a good scan. 

Furthermore, getting a closed MRI scan can be quite challenging if you have mobility issues.

An open MRI design lends patients a more comfortable and less intimidating experience. You feel less claustrophobic as you have more open space around you during the scan. It is especially great for people with larger body sizes or mobility issues.

The duration of the scan

The scan time of traditional closed machines is significantly shorter than that of an open MRI. As the closed system allows the machine to generate a higher-intensity magnetic field, you will spend less time in the machine getting your scan.

Open MRI is often longer, and this extended duration could be a consideration for patients who have difficulty remaining still for prolonged periods.

Suitability for different conditions

A closed MRI is often used to image intricate organs like the brain, spinal cord, joints, and internal organs. The high-resolution capability of the scan allows your GP to see clear images for a better visual assessment of minor abnormalities.

An open MRI machine is much better suited for scanning larger body parts. You might get an open MRI scan for musculoskeletal issues.

The noise level during the scan

A closed MRI machine often produces a loud knocking or thumping noise while taking a scan. The sound can be unsettling for some patients. 

While you will get ear protection during your scan, the combination of a confined space and the loud noise can trigger anxiety in some patients.

The open MRI machine also generates noise, but the open design makes it less intense, and your overall experience is much more tolerable.

Overview of open MRI


Open MRI images are a major step forward in medical testing. The tech has made MRI scans simpler and more relaxing for patients.

The design of an open MRI machine is very different from that of a closed one. A closed MRI is like a tube that goes all around the person, but an open MRI has either open sides or a big, wide tunnel. 

This shape doesn't make the machine feel too cramped for space. It makes it simpler for more folks to use, including those with large bodies or mobility issues and who worry a lot about being in tight spaces.

The big advantage of an open MRI is that it tries to make patients feel at ease. Normal MRI can be scary, especially for people who have anxiety, as it might feel like you are stuck in a tiny box. 

An open MRI solves this problem by giving patients more space and freedom, making them feel less worried, and giving them a better experience. For people who experience claustrophobia, an open MRI machine is a much better option than the traditional closed machine. 

Technically, open MRI scanners usually use a weaker magnetic field than closed MRIs. This affects the detail and quality of the pictures taken.

Although open MRI's can help find health issues, the pictures might not be as clear as those from strong closed MRI machines. 

The lack of resolution means that open MRI machines may not be suitable for diagnosing all diseases, particularly when very detailed pictures are needed.

Pros of Open MRI

An open MRI has several advantages, including:

  • Improved patient comfort
  • Better accessibility for larger patients and children
  • Suitable for patients with limited or compromised mobility
  • Lower noise levels while taking scans
  • Provides more flexibility in positioning a patient

Cons of Open MRI

Here are a few disadvantages you should keep in mind if you are considering an open MRI system: 

  • Produces a lower-quality image
  • Takes significantly longer to take a scan
  • Open magnetic resonance imaging machines are less available than closed ones
  • Higher costs 
  • Not suitable for all diagnostic needs

Overview of closed MRI

Closed MRI machine

These machines are characterised by a high magnetic field strength, which is required to produce high-res images. 

The most distinguishing feature of a closed MRI machine is its shape. It looks like a small tunnel where the patient goes during the test. The small space is essential as it helps generate a strong magnetic field.

The strong magnets and radio waves in closed MRI machines generate high-resolution images of your internal organs. It makes them very useful for finding many health problems, from changes in the brain to subtle joint injuries.

Being in a small space can make some people feel uneasy or worried, especially those already suffering from claustrophobia or having larger bodies. Even so, the fantastic picture quality of closed MRIs often makes them the best option for tricky medical cases where detailed imaging is crucial.

Closed MRI machines give really clear pictures with a lot of details. It helps doctors get a correct diagnosis and plan good treatment for different health issues. As technology improves, so will patients' comfort in the closed MRI machines.

Pros of closed MRI

Here are a few advantages of this technology: 

  • Produces high-resolution images for a better diagnosis
  • Have much shorter scan times compared to the open systems
  • Most MRI machines are based on this technology, so availability is not a problem
  • Closed MRI systems employ more advanced imaging and processing technology than open systems

Cons of closed MRI

The disadvantages of a closed MRI machine include the following: 

  • Can be pretty claustrophobic
  • Larger patients or people with anxiety might have a more challenging time getting scanned in a closed MRI machine
  • The noise levels are pretty high
  • As the patient is wholly enclosed in a closed MRI, the caregivers have limited access to the patient during the scan

Open MRI vs. closed MRI, which one is suitable for me?

Consider the alternative options of open and closed MRI machines

You should consider several factors before deciding if you can choose between open MRI vs. closed MRI. While it is true that an open system is much less claustrophobic and comfortable than a closed system, you do sacrifice the resolution of the scans.

If you need a very high-resolution scan of an internal organ, a closed system is the way to go. However, an open system might be helpful if you need to scan a bigger part of your body and if the image's resolution is not a crucial factor in the diagnosis.

Either way, your GP might be better positioned to advise you regarding the kind of scan you need for the best possible diagnostic outcome.

Sometimes, a closed MRI machine is not an option when the patient's mobility is a factor. The same goes with larger patients who can't physically fit into the tunnel of a closed MRI machine.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you will need to stay still for about 15-90 minutes during the scan. Many people might find it challenging to achieve stillness in a small space of a closed MRI system.

In the end, the choice comes down to finding a balance between getting good images and being comfortable. 

If your sickness needs accurate pictures, a closed MRI could be better. But if you are mainly worried about being comfortable and having space, open MRI systems might be the way to go.

Talking about your concerns and what you need with your GP is very important. They can tell you what kind of MRI is best for your health problem, how to stay comfortable, and what tests need to be done.

Open MRI near me

GetScanned has made it easier than ever to find an open MRI facility that puts your comfort first but not at the expense of image quality. Using your postcode, you can find all available open MRI clinics close by that match your needs.

Our collaboration with renowned MRI centres guarantees the availability of the latest open MRI technology suitable for those who might suffer from claustrophobia or require a larger scanning area. 

We support you every step of the way, from scheduling to receiving detailed scan reports. Use GetScanned for hassle-free open MRI.

Closed MRI near me

People searching for the most detailed MRI scan results can use GetScanned to find closed MRI services nearby. Our platform helps you find the best closed MRI services around your area without long waiting times.

Our network has centres with the latest MRI machines that offer outstanding image quality for precise diagnosis. Booking your closed MRI scan is easy and convenient with GetScanned. Our service is tailored for the private patient and allows flexibility between self-pay or insured scans.

Furthermore, we have a round-the-clock support team ready to help with any doubts or concerns at every step of getting a scan.

Conclusion: Balance comfort with clarity by choosing wisely between open and closed MRI

Deciding between an open MRI and a closed MRI hinges on finding a balance between comfort and diagnostic precision. Open MRI systems, made for the comfort of patients, are of immense value if you are claustrophobic or anxious. 

They also offer a much better experience for children and patients with limited mobility. However, it comes at a price—lower-resolution images.

On the other hand, Closed MRI systems can produce high-res images, making them super crucial for accurately diagnosing different health problems. 

They are instrumental when examining smaller organs in great detail. However, the small space inside these devices can be challenging for some patients. It could cause them to feel uncomfortable or worried.

The open and closed MRI tools each have their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing this can help you make smarter choices about your health care. 

As technology advances, we can anticipate further improvements in MRI systems, aiming to merge the best of both worlds—optimal comfort without compromising diagnostic quality.

Whether you need a closed or open MRI near you, GetScanned is here to make taking appointments easy. Simply enter your postcode and desired scan type on our website, and we will swiftly connect you with the best options near you. Enjoy a seamless journey from booking to receiving your reports with GetScanned!


Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions that might help: 

1. What is an open MRI?

An open MRI is a type of MRI machine that has a more open design than traditional MRI machines. The open sides and broader opening of these machines ensure that the patient doesn’t feel confined and claustrophobic when undergoing a scan. Such machines are especially beneficial for larger patients or patients with difficulty staying still throughout the scan.

2.Is open MRI less claustrophobic?

Yes, open MRI is regarded to be less claustrophobic compared to closed traditional machines. The open design of the machine, with gaps between its elements or wider sides without walls, is less restrictive and makes it easier for anxious patients who suffer from claustrophobia to endure scanning.

3. What does an open MRI machine look like?

An open MRI device differs from its closed counterpart in that it has much wider sides or a wide patient opening. The design alleviates a sense of confinement. Most open MRI systems appear as a big ring or horseshoe, unlike the narrow tube-like configuration of closed MRIs, allowing for an open scanning environment.

4. How long does an open MRI machine take?

The time required for an open MRI scan may be different depending on the area under imaging and its diagnostic value. An open MRI scan can last from 30 to 60 minutes. Nevertheless, the open design may lead to slightly increased scan times for equivalent image quality in some situations when compared with closed MRIs.

5. Is open MRI as good as normal MRI?

Though open MRI enables high-quality images for many types of scans, it may not provide images with the same level of detail as traditional systems. Open MRI technology has made great strides, but your GP might still recommend a traditional scan for some needs requiring superior image resolution and clarity.

6. How long does a closed MRI take?

An MRI scan conducted in a closed machine lasts from 20 to about 60 minutes. The time may increase if the area to be scanned is complex or if more images are needed for greater detail.

7. What does a closed MRI machine look like?

A closed MRI machine resembles a cylinder with an enclosed tunnel in its centre where the patient is placed during scanning. The design enables the machine to generate strong magnetic fields necessary for high-quality images.

8. What do some patients experience when having a closed MRI?

Closed MRI can make some patients feel trapped or anxious due to the narrow space of the tunnel. The lack of open space might provoke a sense of claustrophobia in some people. Furthermore, the noisy knocking and thumping during scanning may further contribute to discomfort.

9. Which is better, open or closed MRI?

Whether to use an open or closed MRI depends on the needs of the patient and their level of comfort, as well as specific medical difficulties associated with particular scans. 

People with claustrophobia, large body size, or those who can’t fit into a closed machine are better off using open MRI. Closed MRI, on the other hand, usually results in higher-quality images and is chosen for more detailed diagnostic purposes.

You should always consult your GP before deciding what type of MRI you should get.