Can Someone My Size Have A Traditional MRI?

by Kenlie Tiggeman on February 2, 2012

I have a few questions for you today, but first, let’s talk about weigh-in day.  It’s today, and I’m ready.  I’ve taken a few peeks at my weight through the week, and I’m not expecting to see a loss.  It’s frustrating because I’ve exercised hard all week, and my eating habits have been great (with the exception of a few minutes last week.)  And while I’m not perfect, my week has been healthy overall…So I’m going to focus on the fact that I did 5 and 6 miles on the elliptical, weight training and other forms of cardio.

Over the last seven days I completed 5 miles on the elliptical then completed 6 miles a couple of days later.  I worked out before the sun came up, and I got it done last night even though I just didn’t feel like it.  I’m also going to appreciate the fact that I’ve found new vegetables to love and new ways to prepare and consume them.  I’m going to adjust my workouts, continue to refine my eating choices and look forward to another healthy week.  And now, on to my question…

A Facebook friend reached out to me about her nervousness over having an MRI next week.  She’s about my size, and she’s not sure what to expect.

Has anyone my size or larger ever had an MRI?  Does someone my size have to worry about fitting into a traditional machine?  I’ve read that the general MRI tube can hold over 400 pounds, but my only experience with it has been the open option.  The open MRI is obviously a good idea for obese patients, but it’s not always available. Do any of you have experience in a regular MRI machine?  Should someone under 300 pounds be worried about fitting?

The test is nerve-racking even without the added fears of fitting.  I hope you’ll join me in wishing her a positive and healthy outcome.

 

 

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikke Brown February 2, 2012 at 3:49 am

Other than weight loss, are you measuring inches lost?
As to your question, I work in a hospital with a traditional size MRI and I’ve taken a patient there who was 368lbs. He fit in and was able to do the complete MRI. As for any bigger, I am unsure.

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I do measure my inches, but I haven’t measured them lately. Right now, I’m much more concerned about the numbers going down on the scale. But I feel good about my actions this week so I’ll have to remind myself of that after my weigh-in.

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Tammy February 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

I had one MRI done, but a friend advised me to close my eyes before anything started so that I wouldn’t know how closed in I was. I took her advice, so I can’t say how much room there was. I would hope that the doctor who prescribed the MRI would have already taken his patient’s size into consideration.

Best wishes for a good outcome from the MRI.

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I would hope that the doctor would do that, but I know from experience that they don’t always consider it.

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Jane at Keepingthepoundsoff.com February 2, 2012 at 7:51 am

When I was about 360 I had a closed MRI. It was like being squeezed into a sausage casing. I do not have anxiety or fear of closed spaces so I was okay with it.
I barely fit. It really depends on where the weight is. I am pear shaped and I fit. An apple might not fit the same way.

The worse part was the radioloist’s report. To cover their asses in case they miss anything, they comment heavily on the extreme amount of fat on the patient and what it blocks and what it makes everything else look like.

I think that report helped me stay focused on losing weight at that time – I never wanted to read another report about my insides that contained phrases like fat encased liver . . . .

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Wow..that’s awful….but I hear you. I don’t want that either. Let’s keep moving..=)

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Tammy Ortagus February 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

Just tell them to request an open MRI machine like I do. I’ve never been in one like the pic because I’m clausterphobic (sp?) .

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Good idea, but they’re not always available…

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Diana McAdams February 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

I’m 5’5″ . Had a closed MRI @ 300 # and it was a tight fit. Had to have Valium ( I am claustrophobic ), and still came close to panic more than once during my 40 minutes in there….kept thinking it was going to “get” me because it was almost touching me all around. The noise alone is enough to drive you nuts :-)
Hope others have better news.

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I’m glad I’m not claustrophobic. That just sounds terrible.

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Judith February 7, 2012 at 10:37 am

I am 5’8″ and 298lbs. They tried me in a closed Philips MRI and I would not fit. I was too wide at the shoulders. I am not generally claustrophobic, but was terrified that I would get stuck in it. I was suggested to try a Siemens MRI, which my doctor is currently looking for. Otherwise, I might have to pay for one across the border. Which I’m not looking forward to.

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Gail @ Shrinking Sisters February 2, 2012 at 9:25 am

I had one for my neck about 5 years ago. I was around 250ish and fit in just fine. And from what I’ve heard, closed MRIs are more accurate than open ones.

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I’ve heard the same thing…

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Beth@WeightMaven February 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

I’ve had three, all of them in an open MRI at weights around 300 or so pounds on a fairly short body. Note that an open MRI is more helpful for issues related to claustrophobia … it’s not really entirely open.

Gail is right about open vs closed MRIs. When I had my back MRI this past fall, the ortho only had one open MRI on their list of approved vendors.

What I did for mine (having that same anxiety about fitting) is to call the place where I was going to go to find out what their machine supported weight-wise. It’s not just a specific how much do you weigh issue, but also how your weight is distributed (I’m a pear).

In the second MRI I had for my knee (when I was probably at 320 or so), the top of the (open) MRI was pressing on my stomach with the same pressure as a pair of tighter pants. Not uncomfortable, but it’s not like there was any space and I was a little embarrassed but the tech was really nice about it.

Ultimately, newer MRI machines can accommodate larger folks easier than older ones. So I’d recommend calling around and finding a place that sounds like they have experience working with larger bodies.

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Great advice about calling around Beth. Thanks!

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Tracy February 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

Kenzi, Working in the medical field for many years it really upsets me that more machines aren’t made for men and women of size. I have had a MRI, I think I weighed around 350lbs at the time and fit. But the do have a open MRI machine that kinda looks like a hamburger bun and it is very comfortable and no near as scary. Every city should have one of these close by and the are called open MRI. Good Luck to your friend.

Tracy

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I like the open (hamburger looking one) though it’s not available everywhere.

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Chubby McGee February 2, 2012 at 11:53 am

I’m so impressed with your workouts, Kenlie. I can’t do what you do!!! You have no idea what I look like when I’m on an elliptical. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I tip the damn thing over because I’m so uncoordinated. Plus, it’s GRUELING. You rock!!! I wish I had your stamina, too. Someday, right?!

I’m very sorry about your friend having to have an MRI. Health issues are so scary and stressful. I’m supposed to have one, too…but I’m skipping having it because I don’t want the bill (even though I have insurance). I hope you guys find out if she’ll be able to do a regular MRI, but I can’t imagine her not being able to. Also, tell her to just relax about the process. It sounds hard to do, but if she really focuses in on it she can do it. I had a CAT Scan on Christmas Day and I found it surprisingly relaxing (in spite of the fact that I wasn’t sure if I had just had a stroke or not…yikes!). I forced myself to just chill when I laid down on the table and I closed my eyes and imagined myself at the beach. I know the MRI machine makes a lot of noise, but I’m sure she can just imagine herself out of her body and maybe try to force herself to tune the noise out. I hope that helps. :)

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Aw thanks Chubbs. I didn’t start here either, and I plan to do much more over time. =)

A CT on Christmas Day? What?! I’m glad you’re okay now…

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Denise February 2, 2012 at 11:56 am

Had one and had no problems. I’ve had my knee done and my head so I’ve been in both ways. Tell her just use it as a time to nap or plan her weekly meals. It is a free 45-ish minutes with no interruptions!!

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Love the positive outlook on them!

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Xazmin February 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I’m so proud of all your hard work! I am in a serious slump, and I can’t figure out how to break out of it!

Good luck to your friend. I have never had an MRI (knock on wood).

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Just keep clawing through it. You’ll break out.

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Brooke February 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I’m 6ft tall and had an MRI when I was 340lbs. I fit in just fine with quite a bit of room to spare. Originally I was supposed to have an open MRI, but ended up having to do the closed one instead. I had elected an open MRI because I had the same fear, but when the MRI tech told me I had to do the closed, I figured if they thought it wouldn’t be a problem, then I should either. The MRI itself wasn’t that bad at all, it was quite loud, but other than that it was just fine.

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Kenlie February 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Good to know Brooke. I think she’ll be pleased to read these comments!

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kimz February 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

One helpful tip I can offer up is to cover your eyes with a washcloth. It should help reduce some anxiety about having your face so close to the machine. Many centers offer a music option, too, which is soothing as well.

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Barbara February 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I am 5’8″ and was about 250-260 lbs when I had to have an MRI. I was fine.

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Bella February 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I know for me, when I am working out really intensely (which you have been), sometimes my body holds onto the weight, which is so frustrating. But I do know that eventually it will also release it. The problem can be that I don’t allow that to happen and let the scale shake me so much that I say “F it.” I’m so glad that you’re not doing that. It is fantastic that you’re appreciating all that you’ve done this week, because it’s a lot to be proud of. Keep it all up and I know that you’ll see the scale going your way soon enough.

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Tammy February 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Good luck with weigh-in Kenlie. Your workouts have been fantastic lately! I need to work on eating more fruits and vegetables.

I had an traditional MRI almost ten years ago. I’m 5’3″ and think I was around 340 back then. My weight is distributed evenly (yes, I am fat all over) and it was a tight fit, but a fit. Today, I weight 370+ and would be nervous if I had to have one these days. I hope I can lose some weight before I ever do. I would think the medical staff would know whether your friend will fit before letting her try. I hope all goes well.

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Morgan February 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Sounds like you are making great choices, and sometimes it sucks that the scale doesn’t reflect that for us. But if it doesn’t this week, don’t let it get you down – maybe next week it will be a bigger number!

I tagged you in an 11 things post on my blog…

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Heather February 2, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hi,
First I’d like to say, love your blog! I find it very inspiring. I ran across you when I started seriously trying to lose weight in November (to date, 31.5 lbs down, 73.5 to go!), and thanks for doing what you do. It helps.
So I am a hospital-based Physician Assistant, and most MRIs are rated for weights of 350-400 lbs, so weight shouldn’t be an issue for you friend. However as others have pointed out, weight distribution can cause difficulty, as well as claustrophobia. If her weight is distributed fairly evenly and she is ok with closed spaces, she should be fine.

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Debby February 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Every MRI machine is different. When your friend has her preMRI screeening they will ask her what her weight is. If the machine will not accomodate her, they will let her know. The majority of the older MRI machines at older facilities have a weight limit of 250lbs. HOWEVER!! I know a young lady who weighed 360 and was able to have one. They moved her to a different facility that had a larger machine.
IF the facility does not prescreen her (which is a horrible mistake!!!) then she should contact the facility, ask for the radiology department, and tell them she is having an MRI and she is wondering what the weight limit is on the machine.

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Holly Atkins March 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Hello,

I weigh 313 pounds and got an MRI 2 days ago. The machine was a tight fit but it really is for anyone. I was comfortable and had no problems. My arms were crossed over my stomach and I still had a little room to move. The machine I was in also had a small mirror right in front of my face that was angled in a way that I could see my legs and a small view of the room. I just imagined my legs were hanging out! I suffer from anxiety and took a .25mg Xanax before the procedure. My MRI took 20 minutes and I passed this by counting and keeping my mind on that! It really wasn’t too bad. Closing my eyes actually freaked me out..

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Ann May 26, 2013 at 1:23 am

I have had MRI three times. Two were closed and one was “open” that is along one side was open. That was the easiest because I have claustrophobia and I am overweight. I prepared for the tests by (1) taking a tranquilizer my doctor prescribed (2) taking a trusted person who understood the seriousness of my fear and who I could rely on for immediate response if I panicked (3) had my friend sit near my feet and touch my foot so I had “outside” contact (4) wore special angled mirrored glasses that enabled me to look down and see my friend. Best not to look up. The first time I had an MRI they didn’t have the glasses–I kept my eyes shut and used a technique my minister suggested: I visualized myself in a very open place. A few days before the test I happened to watch a nature program showing geese flying over snow covered mountains. So that’s what I did; I flew with the geese. Frankly the noise was the least of my worries and I didn’t really mind. You should make an appointment to visit the facility, see the machine, and talk with one of the tech people. If open MRI will be sufficient (“closed” gives a better image), find a facility that has one. You don’t have to use the facility the doctor suggests. Be your own advocate; take whatever steps will help you through the test–it gives an extremely detailed image that will help in your diagnosis and treatment.

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Alexander July 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I am an MRI tech and working on “closed”, “opened”, GE, Phillips, Hitachi machines. Couple details you should know. “Closed” MRI machines have a magnet approx 8 times stronger then usual “opened” MRI. Also, your choice also depends part of the body you are planning to scan. The part of the body we are looking at, has to be exactly in the center of the magnet. So, if you will have an MRI of an ankle, then all your torso will be out and “closed” MRI will show much much better signal and create great images then “opened” one. If you are planning to scan lumbar spine, then a middle of your body will be in the center and here it will depend how big you are in general and how the weight is distributed in your body. Opened MRI machines are also limited by weight and size, (for example GE I am working is limited up to 397 pounds). The rest is manageable – noise, being claustrophobic (most of the time)…Hope that helped

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Fancy December 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Thank you for your response. It helped. I’m getting an MRI on Monday and I’m really scared.

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June September 17, 2013 at 11:57 am

Was scheduled for Breast MRI. I weigh 254 and have no breasts due to mastectomy. Got prepped and had to lie on stomach on a raised platform with metal bar along sternum. Tech managed to cram me in with me hollering WAIT, WAIT, but I could not even draw a breath. I cancelled MRI. Have brusing on sternum and ribs. .

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Mike January 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I need MRI’s on both calves. Can the machine be used feet first?

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Jessica May 29, 2014 at 11:21 am

I weigh 310 and went in for an MRI at my local hospital. I have serious migraines and needed something better than a CT scan because they were checking for bleeding and other issues due to an uptick in my neurological issues (essentially, they wanted to make sure the issues WERE related to my migraines, rather than stroke or something else.)

They said the machine would take a person up to 350 lbs, but the tech was concerned I wouldn’t fit anyway. I’m not claustrophobic, so there weren’t any issues there. However, I would not fit into the machine because my shoulders were too wide. The techs tried pushing me in a little, but after about 10 cm they said they couldn’t push any more (even though I didn’t feel like they were pushing very hard). I offered to pull my arms in more, or try something else, but they said no and pulled me out.

Since my hospital has only one machine, (closed) I had to ‘make due’ with a CT only, which shows very little detail and isn’t really useful for what I needed. It was quite humiliating to be told I was ‘just too fat’ to fit into their machine (one of the techs said that). I don’t understand why they wouldn’t just let me cross my arms over my stomach, because I think that would have helped, but they insisted my arms had to be straight down at my sides. WHY? Then I asked if we could find an MRI machine at another hospital that I could fit into. The tech said “No. You’re just too fat.” I didn’t know at the time that there was more than 1 type of MRI, or that they came in different sizes. Researching that got me to this site.

I don’t know if I’m angry that I’m fat, or angry that I seem to live somewhere where being fat makes you into a second-class citizen.

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jenny June 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

Jessica, I work with MRIs and the reason you can’t cross your arms is because it could create a conductive loop.

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