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MRI scan claustrophobia and PSA level

I have claustrophobia and cannot go into a 'Normal' MRI scanner. I recently heard of a man who was too overweight to fit in a normal scanner, so he successfully approached a veterinarian. I am not overweight but feel I must get a scan soon as my PSA has just jumped up to 4.8 (I am 70 now). Are there any scanners that could allow me to get a scan? I did attend Croydon Health Authority where they have an open-sided one. I successfully went in the scanner, but the results were worse than useless.

13 March 2021

Many thanks for contacting us here at Ask the Expert.

In our response we will discuss both the issues that you have raised.

PSA level

This is the antigen level that is monitored as a diagnostic means for prostate cancer.

A raised PSA level does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.

PSA levels can be affected by aging, infection, enlargement of the prostate, surgical procedures and exercise, as well as cancer.

Normal PSA levels are expected to be in the region of:

  • For men in their 50s, a PSA level of up to 3 nanograms per millilitre of blood (3ng/ml).
  • For men in their 60s, a PSA level of up to 4ng/ml.
  • For men in their 70s, a PSA level of up to 5ng/ml.
  • There are no PSA level limits for men aged 80 and over.

You say that your PSA level has become raised and that is why you wish to have an MRI scan. We would suggest that other alternative diagnostics may need to be considered first, before resorting to this measure, as your results appear to be within the normal range for your age.

Initial diagnostics, which can be done to ascertain potential causes for the raise in your PSA level include:

  • PR Examination to feel for lumps and possible enlarged prostate gland
  • Urine test to exclude infection
  • An ultrasound +/- biopsy

If you have had these examinations and tests performed, or have had a previous history of prostate cancer, then yes, it may be appropriate for you to undergo MRI and CT scans for further diagnostic purposes.

MRI Scanners

As you are aware, MRI scanners can come in different forms: enclosed, open sided and upright.

A number of hospitals and clinics will use the traditional enclosed MRI scanner, but there are some facilities that offer access to an open-sided or upright scanner, which is particular useful for those suffering with claustrophobia or other restrictive issues.

These open scanners are mainly found at private facilities, but a few are available in the NHS. The private facilities available may accept NHS referrals if funded by and referred by your local GP. In respect of private medical insurance covering MRI scanning, this would need to be clarified by your policy team, as you may have restrictions regarding referrer, out-patient cover and the reason for scan.

The majority of these alternative centres can be found in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds.

Some contact details of those facilities based in London are:

• London Upright MRI Centre – 44 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, W1T1QD -

• Mediserena Upright MRI – 114A Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge - www.mri-london-com - 02073706003

• UME Diagnostics – Harley Street, London - Diagnostic Centres ( 02074676160

• In-Health-Group-Croydon – based at University of Croydon Hospital

As health professionals we would recommend that you use these facilities before considering the veterinarian route.

We hope the above information is of help to you.

Wishing you all the best.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

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