ExpertMRI Blog  »  ExpertMRI Blog

What Are the Benefits & Advantages of a Stand-Up MRI?

Table of Contents

If you’ve never undergone an MRI scan (or perhaps have one scheduled in the near future), experiencing a bit of anxiety prior to the procedure is completely normal. Whether it’s a trip to the dentist or an annual physical, routine medical procedures aren’t typically a source of enjoyment for most of us. Patients who choose Expert MRI, however, have peace of mind knowing they have access to the most advanced, state-of-the-art medical diagnostics services as well as a caring and compassionate team of professionals dedicated to making your experience as pleasant as possible.

When you think of what undergoing an MRI procedure entails, you may envision having to remain still in a somewhat compressed space (e.g. tube) amid periodic loud banging noises that are actually coils vibrating. At any point during the procedure, if you need to communicate with the radiologist or MRI tech overseeing your test you can squeeze a rubber ball that will alert the staff member. Depending on the type of scan you are undergoing, it may last between 15 and 90 minutes.

For most of us, remaining still in an enclosed space for that amount of time isn’t a major issue (it might not necessarily be enjoyable, but it’s bearable and the benefits of optimal health certainly outweigh the temporary inconvenience). However, some patients who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia may require special accommodations to ensure they are able to undergo their MRI scan in a comfortable and stress-free setting. For such patients, the Stand-Up MRI machine is a preferable alternative to the traditional high-field system.

What Is a Stand-Up MRI and How Does It Differ From a Traditional MRI?

A Stand-Up MRI (also referred to as the FONAR Upright MRI) is a revolutionary advancement in medical diagnostics technology. Utilizing a front open design, the Stand-Up MRI allows radiologists to scan patients in various positions, whereas a traditional MRI machine scans patients while lying down. Both systems offer state-of-the art diagnostics capabilities that aid in detecting and diagnosing injuries and disease. With Stand-Up MRI and traditional MRI systems offering different features, patients with varying needs or specific types of injuries may be better suited for one system versus the other.    

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the two systems, and why a Stand-Up MRI might be appropriate for patients with certain needs.

What is a Traditional or High-Field MRI?

The Mayo Clinic defines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a medical imaging technique using a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in the body. The most common type of MRI machine is a traditional or high-field model. Traditional MRI machines are comprised of large, tube-shaped magnets. When a patient is inserted into a traditional MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns the water molecules within your body. As the Mayo Clinic describes the process, “radio waves cause these aligned atoms to produce faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images — like slices in a loaf of bread.” Traditional MRI machines also have the capability to produce 3D images that can be viewed from various angles.

High-field or traditional MRI machines are an extremely valuable tool in helping to identify myriad diseases and injuries, allowing radiologists to diagnose and treat accordingly. Given the enclosed tube structure of a traditional MRI, some patients with unique needs may have difficulty being in confined spaces for an extended period of time. For such patients, the Stand-Up MRI system with a front open design addresses their particular needs.

What is a Stand-Up MRI?

A Stand-Up MRI is an advancement of the traditional MRI machine that utilizes a front open design allowing patients to undergo scans in various positions. To visualize the Stand-Up MRI system, simply imagine the standard MRI tube structure turned on its side, so the machine is standing vertical. Then, imagine splitting the tube down the middle into two sections (i.e. walls that are large magnetic structures). The patient is then placed in between those two ‘walls’ (for lack of a better term), allowing for a more comfortable and relaxing environment for some of our patients with certain needs.

For such patients, let’s take a look at some of the benefits a Stand-Up MRI scan may offer.

What Are the Benefits of a Stand-Up MRI for Some Patients?

1. Unrestricted Front Open System

Stand-Up MRIs utilize an open-faced design where the patient is situated between two large magnetic imaging devices on either side. The patient can either stand or sit in a chair that raises or lowers their body into a specific position. With the front open design of a Stand-Up MRI, there is nothing directly in front of the patient’s face, which some might find uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing. For patients with severe claustrophobia or anxiety, Stand-Up MRIs are an excellent option that can alleviate their concerns.

2. Multi-Positional/Weight-Bearing Imaging

With a Stand-Up MRI, radiologists are able to utilize multi-positional imaging techniques where patients can be scanned while standing, sitting, and lying-down. Additionally, Stand-Up MRIs allow us to take images of patients’ spines in flexion, extension, and bending positions, and images of joints when rotated in a variety of positions. These capabilities unique to Stand-Up MRI machines allow for advanced imaging of certain injuries that are unable to be read on conventional MRIs due to the tube design.

Stand-Up MRIs also offer the benefit of weight-bearing (also known as axial loading) imaging capability. Some patients experience more intense pain when the body is in a specific position (e.g. lower back pain when standing). With Stand-Up MRIs, patients can have their scans taken in the exact position where they are experiencing the most significant pain. Taking an image of the body when weight is applied (e.g. the knee, back, spine, etc.) can help in determining an accurate diagnosis. When you are able to acquire images of the body in the very position where pain is experienced, results showing injuries under load-bearing weight can result in improved surgical outcomes for patients.

3. Enhanced Results for Certain Injuries

For most patients, traditional MRI machines provide an entirely accurate, non-invasive diagnosis of most injuries and diseases. However, in rare cases certain injuries might be missed by traditional MRI machines and therefore require a Stand-Up MRI follow-up.

As an example, in some patients with postoperative hypermobile instability, Stand-Up MRI scans might be necessary to view spinal instability with recurrent lower back pain following an L4-S1 fusion.

Additionally, Stand-Up MRI scans can reveal hidden disc herniation in some patients (specifically the focal posterior at the C4/5 level). Utilizing the Stand-Up MRI system, associated spinal cord compression can be viewed on the standing-extension scans in both the sagittal (top left) and axial planes (bottom left).

Stand-Up MRI can also be beneficial for identifying and diagnosing certain cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Symptoms of such disorders are primarily exhibited when a patient is in an upright position. Disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the spine, and certain joints (e.g. hips, knees, and ankles) exhibit symptoms when patients are in an upright position. Stand-Up MRIs combine the unique ability of a traditional MRI system to view soft tissues while providing radiologists a more comprehensive view of pathology, leading to enhanced function and modalities.

Finally, for patients who sustain dislocations of the cervical spine or whiplash injuries of the head and neck due to automobile accidents, the Stand-Up MRI can be necessary to assess the extent of any brain dislocation, or potentially an opening in the bottom of the skull (foramen magnum). This critical assessment of the extent of brain herniation into the opening at the base of the skull (cerebellar tonsil ectopia, or CTE) must be diagnosed with the patient in the upright position available through a Stand-Up MRI design. By conducting the scan with the patient upright, the surgical repair of the herniation and the patient’s “drop attacks” can be eliminated.

4. Easy Experience for Certain Patients

The front open design of Expert MRI’s Stand-Up system provides an easy and stress-free experience for certain patients. For example, those patients who suffer from claustrophobia, anxiety, or panic attacks can rest easy knowing that their scan will be conducted in an open setting. In fact, most of our front open machines allow patients to watch television while the scan is being conducted.

Additionally, for patients of larger size who may have trouble with the tube design of our traditional MRIs, Stand-Up MRIs provide the perfect solution. Stand-Up MRIs are also ideal for young children (parents can hold their child while the scan is being performed), and patients in wheelchairs who would have difficulty accessing a traditional MRI.

What Are the Risks of a Stand-Up MRI?

There are no known risks with Stand-Up MRIs, and they are just as safe as a traditional MRI or CT Scan. Patients with metallic implanted objects, such as pacemakers, artificial heart valves, an IUD, or anything else that might negatively interfere with the system’s magnetic field are advised to inform your scheduler or technologist in advance so we may make appropriate accommodations.

How Can I Schedule a Stand-Up MRI Appointment Today?

With 18 locations throughout Southern California, Expert MRI makes it easy for patients to access our advanced medical diagnostics centers to schedule an appointment for a Stand-Up MRI, traditional MRI, X-ray, CT scan, Post-COVID MRI brain scan, or Post-COVID CT chest scan.

Visit our website today to book your appointment or call us at 877-MRI-8888. We’re here to answer any questions you may have regarding your upcoming procedure. When booking your MRI, CT scan, or X-ray, choose California’s leading medical diagnostics center, the #1 option for Angelinos.