Understanding Open MRI Scans: Advantages and Suitability for Musculoskeletal Diagnosis
Miss Charlotte Barker
MSK Associate
Published at: 22/11/2023

Understanding Open MRI Scans: Advantages and Suitability for Musculoskeletal Diagnosis

Magnetic resonance imaging machines have developed over the years to improve the way illnesses, injuries and other disorders are diagnosed. If you have been suffering from pain that is related to a musculoskeletal condition, then you may choose to have, or be referred for, an MRI scan. 

There are common conditions that affect the bones and the associated soft tissue within the body, which can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. To ensure you are provided with an accurate diagnosis and the correct course of treatment, an MRI scan can be used to provide detailed images of the affected area. 

What’s the difference between standard and open MRI Scans?


Standard MRI: Involves a closed, cylindrical space where the patient is slid into for scanning.

Open MRI: Features an open design without a restricting cylinder, with magnets positioned above and below the patient. It is open on all sides and functions similarly to a standard MRI.

What is the purpose of an Open MRI Scan?


Particularly useful in detecting various musculoskeletal conditions like fractures, tears in soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles, menisci), degenerative conditions (like osteoarthritis), tumours, and other deformities.

Areas that we scan include:

  • Cervical spine
  • Thoracic spine
  • Lumbar spine
  • Sacroiliac joint
  • Shoulder
  • Elbow
  • Wrist
  • Hand
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Foot
  • Ankle

Can anyone have an Open MRI scan?


It is important that any patient wishing to have an Open MRI scan, undergoes thorough screening before their appointment. There are some conditions that are deemed unsafe for an MRI scan; therefore, it is important to identify those before making your journey to the clinic. All patients that book a scan with us, are sent an ‘OpenMRI Patient Safety Questionnaire’. This allows our MR Operators to understand the reason for your scan, allowing for detailed images to be produced for the radiologist. Therefore, understanding the reason for the scan and identifying patient height, weight, and medical history, is vital.

Patients with metal implants can still undergo the scan, but it's crucial to inform the MR Operator, as metal can disrupt the magnetic field and affect image clarity.

Who is the Open MRI scanner designed for?


Whilst the Open MRI scanner is designed for anyone, larger patients or those suffering from claustrophobia, reap the greatest benefit. The advantage of undergoing an MRI in an open scanner, is the reduction of the enclosed element that you would traditionally get in a closed scanner. Our Open MRI machine is open on all four sides, which enhances the level of comfort. Furthermore, the elimination of the cylindrical component reduces the level of noise throughout the scan, making the Open MRI a quieter scanner. 

It is important to note, that when using the Open MRI scanner, you will be required to lay on a bed that is slid underneath the scanner. Depending on the body part scanned, will dictate whether your head will be underneath the scanner or not. Please contact us to request one of our MRI information sheets that outline the equipment used and positioning for each scan.

Safety Concerns Regarding Radiation:


MRI scans, both open and closed types, do not use ionising radiation, making them a safe diagnostic tool.

What are you expected to wear for your Open MRI scan?

Preparation for your scan is important, it is advised that patients wear metal-free clothing like T-shirts, leggings, or tracksuit bottoms without zips. It's important to avoid underwired bras, jeans, belts, hair clips, metal buttons, jewellery, and makeup containing metal.

How long will my Open MRI scan take?

Scan durations vary based on the body part being scanned, ranging from 25 to 50 minutes. If multiple areas need scanning, they are done sequentially, extending the total appointment time.


An Open MRI scan offers distinct advantages in terms of patient comfort and suitability for a wider range of individuals, especially those uncomfortable with enclosed spaces or who have larger body sizes. It remains a highly effective diagnostic tool for a broad spectrum of musculoskeletal conditions.


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