CALDWELL — Elaine Bookter turned to some of her favorite Christian music and a series of mountain images to help ease her mind during an MRI procedure at the West Valley Medical Center on Tuesday morning in Caldwell.

For many patients, young and old, undergoing an MRI procedure can be stressful and trigger heightened anxiety or bouts of claustrophobia. But the medical center’s new MRI suite aims to reduce some of the tension for patients like Bookter with the help of music, videos, mood lighting features and design accommodations to better suit bigger, heavier patients.

For Bookter, who is retired and lives in Caldwell, the ability to focus on music and soothing photographs helped her mind steer clear of any anxiety during the procedure.

“Music really helps a lot because it helps distract you,” said Bookter, who is hoping that scanned images of her brain will help doctors find out why she has been experiencing vision problems. “You can concentrate on the words that way instead of the games you play in your mind.”

The medical center completed $2 million worth of upgrades in November. Although one goal was to provide patients with a better, more comfortable experience, the investment is also paying dividends to the medical staff as well.

While showing some close-up scans of Bookter’s brain and optic nerve, Angela Herrera, an MRI technologist at the hospital, said the new MRI offers more detailed imagery.

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“The image quality is beautiful,” Herrera said.

Previous to the upgrades, MRIs at the hospital were done in a smaller, stripped down machine that required all patients to enter the machine head first. Most recently, the old machine was located in a temporary building near the surgery entrance.

Since the upgrade, Patrick Bridges, executive director of Cardiovascular Imaging Services at the center, said he has seen patient anxiety decrease, especially in children. The hospital has also boosted its patient load per day from seven to as many as 10.

“A lot of people underestimate patient’s anxiety going to the MRI ... not only just the fear of the unknown of being stuck in a cylinder tube for a period of time, trapped in a tube, but claustrophobia,” Bridges said.

Hospital officials say the new MRI technology is unlike any other available at this point in the Treasure Valley, with the closest comparable technology available at the West Valley center in Utah.

Olivia Weitz is the Canyon County and city of Caldwell reporter. She can be reached at 465-8107 or Follow @oliviaweitz1.

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