Open MRI Policy Guidance

Referral and Treatment Criteria applies – see RaTC - Open MRI, including upright MRI



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a relatively safe, non-invasive diagnostic imaging procedure. MRI scans use radio waves, a magnet, and computer software to obtain two and three-dimensional (3D) images of the inside of the body

A standard MRI involves lying flat inside a tube like structure containing the magnets. Open and semi-open MRI systems have a variety of configurations which mean the patient is not completely surrounded by the magnet, allowing more space around the body

Upright MRI is a type of open MRI which allows for scans to be taken in upright and weight bearing positions

Currently, open MRI generally does not produce as good a quality image as standard MRI and the length of time to get an image is longer



Open MRI scanning is not routinely funded unless one of the following two criteria are met:

  • Claustrophobia
    • Patient is claustrophobic (see rationale) AND
    • Local sedation pathway followed and not effective OR sedation is not suitable AND
    • other imaging modalities are not appropriate
  • Patient size
    • Patient is too large¹ (see below) to fit comfortably in a conventional MRI scanner AND
    • Other imaging modalities are not appropriate
  • Upright MRI scanning is not routinely funded for any patient group
  • Prior approval is required for this procedure. Requests for open MRI should be made to NEL at They must come from a radiologist, radiographer, GP or consultant and be supported by appropriate evidence (i.e. sedation pathway has been followed and was not effective/ sedation is not suitable) or an appropriate statement about the issue of size. Prior approval is not required for an open MRI scan of the brain to assess for brain cancer.


¹ The size of a patient and the restriction of the MRI scanner tunnel will vary depending on the patient and the circumstances.  Some patients may be large but would still be suitable for a conventional closed MRI and can be invited to attend the radiology department to be formally assessed by a radiologist or a radiographer for suitability.  Normal MRI weight limit is ≤ 250 kg; and/or diameter ≤ 60 cm (≤ 70 cm if wide-bore machine).  [Circumference of a circle of 60 cm diameter = 188 cm = 74 inches; 70 cm diameter = 220 cm = 86.5 inches]


For full details, including background information and supporting rationale, please see also:

Kent and Medway PRGC Policy Recommendation – Open MRI, including upright MRI


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