• magnetic resonance imaging;
  • patient participation;
  • qualitative research;
  • radiographer

Aims and objectives

To describe patients' expectations before and experiences during a head-first magnetic resonance imaging scan.


Previous studies have reported that patients experience fear and anxiety leading to discomfort before, during and after magnetic resonance imaging scans. Frequent problems persist in producing high-quality images due to motion artefacts. These results imply a need for improvement of patient conditions to allow for the added benefit of better diagnostic quality. Provision of extended written information has not appeared to reduce patients' stress, while interaction with staff has been described as the most important factor for reducing such feelings.

Design and methods

A qualitative, phenomenological approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and data were analysed with systematic text condensation.


The experiences of the ten participants were encapsulated by the main theme: ‘The situation and the uncertainty about the coming result scared me but interaction with the radiographers helped me through’. Subthemes were ‘Prescan preparation’, ‘Mastering threats to self-control’ and ‘Personal achievements by completing the scan’.


Our study has provided a deeper understanding of the expectations before, and experiences during, a head-first magnetic resonance imaging scan. Valuable insight into patients' apprehension about written and verbal information was obtained. The patients reported how they coped with the unfamiliar and stressful magnetic resonance imaging scanning procedure. A trustful dialogue with the radiographer was described as being crucial for patients' ability to manage fear, discomfort and feelings of loss of self-control. We suggest a need for individualised information based on patient participation.

Relevance to clinical practice

Radiographers, as well as nurses caring for patients who will undergo magnetic resonance imaging examinations, should recognise the difficulties inherent in written information. It is also of importance to adjust the patient–radiographer interaction to address patients' expressions of worries about the scanning procedure or the following result.