My doctor wants me to have an MRI for my shoulder before doing surgery. I suffer from claustrophobia and can't go inside a tube like that. What can you tell me about the new open MRI?

Patients are offered better ways to get tested as technology continues to advance. The open MRI is an example of this. It's the best option for patients who are claustrophobic or too large for the regular closed MRI. Open MRI is also good for children because now the parents can stay in the room with them.

Open MRI works pretty much the same as the traditional MRI test. The big difference is the shape of the machine. In a closed MRI the patient lies in a narrow, tube-shaped structure. With open MRI the patient lies on an imaging table with more space around the body. In fact three sides of the body are surrounded by open space.

The patient can see and talk to family, friends, or support staff. Regular and open MRI are both painless. Open MRI is less noisy. You can look at a picture of both kinds of MRI at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center by going to: http://www.jhbmc.jhu.edu/Imaging/openmri1.html.

Not all parts of the body can be viewed with open MRI. You'll have to check with your doctor to see if this method will work for you.