Daily Bulletin 2015

Aromatherapy, Breathing Techniques, Aid MRI Anxiety

Tuesday, Dec. 01, 2015

While the medical benefits of MRI are not disputed, getting an MRI examination can be a stressful experience for some patients, particularly those who suffer from anxiety issues such as claustrophobia.

Selena Glenn, M.A., B.S.R.T.

Selena Glenn, M.A., B.S.R.T.

But according to a study presented Monday, the use of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) strategies involving aromatherapy and breathing techniques can help reduce MRI anxiety related to claustrophobia.

"Anxiety and claustrophobia is a global issue for patients, technologists, and businesses alike," said presenter Selena Glenn, M.A., B.S.R.T, an MRI technologist at Rebound Orthopedics and Neurosurgery in Portland, Ore. "Its effects include delayed treatment, patient fears, frustration for technologists and financial losses."

"Anytime a patient can't finish an exam, that person can't get a diagnosis as quickly as needed," she said. "And when a patient can't get on that table, that slot becomes a loss. And with changes in healthcare and medical reimbursement reductions, it has become even more important to keep patients on the table."

And getting patients on the table and keeping them there hasn't been easy. According to Glenn, there were 2 million canceled MRI examinations worldwide in 2011, representing $1.35 billion in losses.

"Although there have been many interventions introduced to ease patient anxieties, technologists still experience problems and more interventions are needed," she said.

Glenn happened upon the idea of using complementary alternative medicine strategies from her own experience dealing with nicotine withdrawal. "Aromatherapy was most effective in helping deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms," she said. "And I also found that breathing techniques were important in taking care of panic issues."

Aromatherapy is the practice of using materials and aromatic oils from plants to enhance a person's physical or psychological wellbeing.

Because Glenn is often responsible for dealing with claustrophobic patients at her practice, she decided to focus on those patients for her RSNA 2015 research. In the study, 38 claustrophobic patients were divided into four arms—two experimental and two control groups.

The experimental groups included patients who used anxiety medicine and those who were non-medicated; the same criteria were used for the control groups. Aromatherapy and breathing techniques were performed by the experimental groups just before entering the scanner bore, while the control group was provided standard care and sham aromatherapy.

The study design included the collection and analysis of quantitative, physiological, and qualitative data. According to Glenn, both experimental groups demonstrated a 76.5 percent reduction in anxiety levels from the pre-exam period to the post-complementary alternative medicine treatment stage. The control groups, on the other hand, experienced statistically insignificant drops in their anxiety levels.

When asked to name the most effective tool for helping reduce anxiety, patients in the experimental group said 56 percent mentioned aromatherapy and breathing techniques together as opposed to 39 percent who cited breathing techniques alone and 5 percent who named aromatherapy alone.

"Aromatherapy and breathing techniques reduce MRI anxiety," she concluded, adding that it can help reduce the number of cancelled exams and operational costs, and gives technologists another intervention.

"But most importantly it keeps the patients on the table so they can get their exams done the first time around and without treatment delays," she said. "And this technique is very versatile—you can adopt in any MRI department in the world."

Question of the Day:

I want to change the MR imaging parameters for a new protocol based on a research paper I read, but the console says the SAR is too high. What is SAR?

Tip of the day:

Patients who have many follow-up head CTs should be assessed for dose to the eyes as they swiftly become at risk for cataracts.

The RSNA 2015 Daily Bulletin is owned and published by the Radiological Society of North America, Inc., 820 Jorie Blvd., Oak Brook, IL 60523.