Therapy dogs can help ease patients' anxiety before they have an MRI scan, researchers have found.
Worry is common among patients having an MRI. This unease can lead to poor image quality because patients may move or because the scan has to end early, the researchers explained.
Anti-anxiety medications can be used to calm patients, but therapy dogs offer an alternative treatment with fewer potential side effects, according to the new study.
Researchers characterized the study as "preliminary."
The study included 34 patients scheduled for outpatient MRI. Twenty-eight of the patients spent 15 minutes with a therapy dog about 30 minutes before they had their MRI, while six patients did not spend any time with a therapy dog.
Time spent with a dog seemed to substitute for the anti-anxiety medications some patients need to get through an MRI.
"A great deal of research is currently being conducted on animal-assisted therapy in the medical environment,'' Dr. Richard Ruchman said in a news release of the American Roentgen Ray Society. "To my knowledge, this is the first study that has particularly addressed animal-assisted therapy in the radiology department, and I believe that many applications could flow from our findings.
Current estimates are that 15 percent or more of patients cannot proceed with an MRI due to anxiety and a non-pharmacologic solution is noteworthy."