Which is Better Open or Closed MRI?

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MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a way of taking photos inside the body without using X-rays. An MRI machine uses a magnet and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the body's soft tissues, bones, and organs without ionizing radiation (x-rays).

What Is An Open MRI?

A significant advantage of open MRIs is that the cost to maintain the machine is less. Additionally, it occupies less space, which makes it ideal for small facilities.

Besides, it does not restrict or interfere with patient mobility compared to closed MRIs. Hence, patients can view their scans in real-time and better understand their bodies and abnormalities.

Conversely, an open MRI involves no tube, and there are no claustrophobic sensations. In this type of MRI, patients stand on a floor mat for the scan instead of being suspended in the air, as is the case with the closed version of this exam.

Pros And Cons Of The Open MRI

Following are the pros and cons of an open MRI;


Open MRIs are relatively cheaper to run than closed MRIs, making them a preferred option for people with a restricted budget. It's also easier to view specific details on an open MRI because of how it works.

These machines are less claustrophobic than closed variants because there is more space, and it doesn't feel as intense when lying down.


The downside of an open MRI is that it exposes the patient to extensive radiation as there is no shield such as a door or partition. This absence increases radiation exposure, which can cause cancer and other medical issues.

Another con is that while scanning on an open MRI, nothing protects the head or chest from touching the sides of the scanner, which could result in injury.

Patients have reported feeling rushed through their scan process since doctors don't want them to be exposed any longer than necessary due to the risk of radiation exposure and injuries.

What Is A Closed MRI?

A closed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system is a complete, self-contained device that produces a high-quality image of internal structures. It consists of one or more large magnets (usually superconducting), an RF unit to which coils are attached, and computer hardware needed for data acquisition and processing.

A closed MRI operates in an enclosed, shielded space that reduces the amount of stray magnetic fields outside the magnet while operational and helps prevent the person being scanned from experiencing anxiety or claustrophobia while lying inside the machine.

The average closed MRI machine is approximately 9 feet long by 3 feet wide with an open front and weighs about 5 or 10,000 pounds.

Pros And Cons Of The Closed MRI

Here are some of the pros and cons of an open MRI!


Less contrast dye is needed in the closed MRI, making it ideal for people with sensitive skin and allergies. This also means that despite the dye being shared among patients, the chances of infections being passed also slim down due to its lesser use.


There is a risk of metal shavings contaminating the contrast dye, which could lead to potential allergic reactions if injected into your bloodstream.

Open MRI Vs. Closed MRI

Let's highlight the main differences between an open MRI and a closed MRI!

Technical Difference

An open MRI machine is more sensitive than a closed one and can often get better images for certain conditions, such as spine injuries.

In comparison, a closed MRI has fewer contraindications due to its reduced sensitivity to external interference.

Magnet Strength

Open MRI machines also use a stronger magnet than closed systems, which helps to generate more explicit images.

However, a stronger magnet can also increase radiation exposure and is a potential contraindication for people with certain conditions. It can be harmful to people with an implant in their head or heart, pregnant women, and couples trying to conceive.

A closed system has a strong magnet that completes the process relatively quickly, plus it is ideal for viewing smaller parts of one's anatomy.


Open systems typically use advanced software and hardware; these features help produce accurate results.

The latest high-end, open MRI systems use 3D imaging to create detailed pictures of the body from different angles without taking multiple scans. These images are less likely to include artifacts caused by movement and less likely to require contrast injection.

To make sure these scanners work well for all types of patients, manufacturers must keep them free from any distracting noises. Closed systems do not need this type of software and hardware because they only take one scan per patient.

Patients Situation

It is no surprise that claustrophobia is a common fear among MRI patients. If you experience anxiety in confined spaces, an open MRI may not suit you.

However, must you opt for it, you might find comfort in knowing that additional safety measures are always in place when using an open machine. These include adding extra space before each examination and using a metallic drape over the patient instead of a tube to enclose them inside the scanner room.

Friendly Uses

An open MRI offers a variety of benefits for those who are claustrophobic, anxious, or deaf. You will know beforehand what to expect, making you feel safer and less anxious during the examination.

While an open machine won't offer the same level of clarity as a closed one, they're good at detecting problems related to blood flow in arteries.


An open MRI may come with an extended warranty. On average, warranties range from three to five years, whereas closed MRI warranties usually last just a year.


The initial cost of an open MRI machine can be higher than a closed one, but it's cheaper to operate. They'll generally cost $300-$500 per hour versus $250-$400 for a closed MRI. Plus, maintaining an open MRI machine is cheaper than a closed one.


Here are some of the most frequently asked questions!

Is An Open MRI As Accurate As A Closed MRI?

Closed MRIs are more accurate than open MRIs. The reason is that an open MRI utilizes higher magnetic fields, which may create artifacts on the images.

When a closed MRI is used, the magnetic field generated is lower to reduce any artifact created by the stronger magnet and transmit/receive coils.

What Are The Three Types Of MRI?

Three main MRI types are open, closed, and panoramic (often called complete). Open MRIs are generally easier to use because they require no physical contact with the patient.

Closed MRIs must be fully immobilized or confined into a tube-like device called a coil for scanning. They are often used in claustrophobic patients, small children, or pregnant women who cannot remain still during an open MRI scan.

Panoramic or full MRIs combine two-dimensional scans to create 3D images. At the same time, they offer extensive information about the body's internal structures. This type of MRI is typically more expensive than the other two and may take longer to perform.

What Is The Best MRI Machine For Claustrophobia?

Closed machines offer protection from exposure to radiation due to their aluminum hoods designed for shielding exposure during exams; however, these units don't relieve those with claustrophobia problems. The best option in such a case is an open MRI unit. The scans can be taken with the patient standing, lying, or sitting.

How Long Do Open MRIs Take?

On average, open MRIs take about 40 minutes to an hour to complete, compared to a closed MRI, which can take around 20 minutes for a single scan with data acquisition over 24 hours.

Is An Open MRI Noisy?

As opposed to closed systems, open MRIs aren't as noisy as patients aren't confined to an enclosed tunnel.

The sensitivity to the machine's noise varies by patient, such as their health, mood, etc. Generally, the sound level is comparable to background noise, such as a light conversation in a quiet room.

Some people may find it soothing to hear the sounds while they think of anything but the procedure and need music on the radio or headphones on their ears to dampen the pain sensation, whereas others prefer silence.


If you are deciding between an open and closed MRI, make sure to take into account your specific needs. A closed MRI offers a more private experience with less noise and the ability to lie down during the procedure.

An open MRI has the advantage of being able to examine a wider area of the body without having to contort yourself into awkward positions. Your doctor will be able to help you decide which one is best for your situation, so make sure to talk with them before making a decision.


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