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Toward Autism-Friendly Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Exploring Autistic Individuals' Experiences of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scans in the United Kingdom, a Cross-Sectional Survey

Stogiannos, N., Harvey-Lloyd, J. M., Brammer, A. , Cleaver, K., McNulty, J. P., dos Reis, C. S., Nugent, B., Simcock, C., O'Regan, T., Bowler, D., Parveen, S., Marais, K., Pavlopoulou, G., Papadopoulos, C., Gaigg, S. B. ORCID: 0000-0003-2644-7145 & Malamateniou, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-2352-8575 (2023). Toward Autism-Friendly Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Exploring Autistic Individuals' Experiences of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scans in the United Kingdom, a Cross-Sectional Survey. Autism in Adulthood, 5(3), pp. 248-262. doi: 10.1089/aut.2022.0051


Background: Autistic individuals might undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination for clinical concerns or research. Increased sensory stimulation, lack of appropriate environmental adjustments, or lack of streamlined communication in the MRI suite may pose challenges to autistic patients and render MRI scans inaccessible. This study aimed at (i) exploring the MRI scan experiences of autistic adults in the United Kingdom; (ii) identifying barriers and enablers toward successful and safe MRI examinations; (iii) assessing autistic individuals' satisfaction with MRI service; and (iv) informing future recommendations for practice improvement.

Methods: We distributed an online survey to the autistic community on social media, using snowball sampling. Inclusion criteria were: being older than 16, have an autism diagnosis or self-diagnosis, self-reported capacity to consent, and having had an MRI scan in the United Kingdom. We used descriptive statistics for demographics, inferential statistics for group comparisons/correlations, and content analysis for qualitative data.

Results: We received 112 responses. A total of 29.6% of the respondents reported not being sent any information before the scan. Most participants (68%) confirmed that radiographers provided detailed information on the day of the examination, but only 17.1% reported that radiographers offered some reasonable environmental adjustments. Only 23.2% of them confirmed they disclosed their autistic identity when booking MRI scanning. We found that quality of communication, physical environment, patient emotions, staff training, and confounding societal factors impacted their MRI experiences. Autistic individuals rated their overall MRI experience as neutral and reported high levels of claustrophobia (44.8%).

Conclusion: This study highlighted a lack of effective communication and coordination of care, either between health care services or between patients and radiographers, and lack of reasonable adjustments as vital for more accessible and person-centered MRI scanning for autistic individuals. Enablers of successful scans included effective communication, adjusted MRI environment, scans tailored to individuals' needs/preferences, and well-trained staff.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright 2022, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers
Publisher Keywords: MRI; autism; person-centered care; patient experience; reasonable adjustments; communication
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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