The MRI scanner is a fear for many, enclosed spaces, not sure what will happen, will I have a panic attack?
I have had many on various parts of my body. I will try and explain in as much detail as possible , what it is like to have an MRI of different body parts.
Firstly let me say that it is rarely as bad as you think it will be. I always imagined a long coffin that is dark and stuffy. On the contrary, it is much shorter than you think it is, nearly always you will find that a part of your body will be sticking out of it. It is well lit and has air blowing through. You have a button to press if you really can’t manage anymore, and the operators can talk to you through a speaker. Yes, they do leave the room but if you really need to, you can have a friend or family member in the room with you.
So with all the MRI scans , you get a questionnaire to fill out asking if you have had metal in your eye and other such things. They ask about your health for things like pace makers etc.
Don’t worry too much if you have tattoos , they did say to me that they may feel warm but I have never experienced this in all my 8 plus MRIs. ( I have lost count).I am also going to have a brace, and asked my neurologist about this, he just said that they can sometimes scramble the signals so they don’t get a good reading, but it shouldn’t put you off getting a brace.
They then check that you have no metal on you, jewellery , watches, zips, studs. I have to take my bra off, but I tend to wear leggings and tops with no metal.
I have MS so head MRI’s are the norm. They ask you to lie down on the bed bit and put a comfy cushion under your knees. They will then ask you to put in some ear plugs, as the noise is pretty loud even with these in, then they will put headphone on you, this is so they can talk to you, and also for you to listen to music through. I have heard that you can ask to bring your own music, but I have not bothered, you can’t hear it too well anyway. You may need a needle in your arm depending on if you are having a contrast dye put in. This can enhance some of the MRI images. They will do some of the scan to start, then they will insert the dye. You cant really feel it, but you may notice a warm flushed sensation and metal taste for a few minutes. Also try and drink plenty afterwards to help flush it out. It is very rare to get an allergic reaction to this and they are well equipped to handle it.
Depending where on the body the scan is, you may drink the solution or have an enema.
Anyway, after the headphones are on, they will place a plastic cage type thing over your head, this is not a problem and it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. The good thing is, a mirror is attached to this cage, and when you are in the scanner, you can see them in the mirror through the window of the control room.. It almost feels like you are sitting up slightly and not lying down at all. This is a godsend for claustrophobics. When you are comfortable they will give you the button incase you need them to stop, and they then go into their little room behind the window.
Please please remember that there is nothing that can hurt you in the MRI scanner.
You will then be told that you are going to move into the scanner. Try and stay calm, think happy thoughts, I know this is ok for me to say, but I can assure you that with my first MRI I was petrified and even felt quite faint for a bit. I just rode it out, and all was well.
The bed will start to move and away you go. When the first images are taken you will hear lots of noises, loud rattling, loud bleeping buzzing. All is perfectly normal. After each image, the technician will tell you how long the next one will last. These scans can take up to an hour on most body parts. When it is all done, they will come in and remove earphones, cage and ear plugs and help you off the scanner. That is the end of the scan. It can take weeks for the results to come back, so don’t be worried if you haven’t heard for 2-3 weeks.
SMALL BOWEL MRI
This one is quite a long MRI, but it is different in a few ways. You have to drink a solution beforehand. It isn’t very pleasant but it has to be done. My technician added orange juice to it for me, to make it taste a bit better . I had to drink about a litre and a half, I couldn’t manage much more as I was unwell with severe colitis when I had this scan. Just drink as much as you can as the images will be clearer.
Instead of a cage thing on your head, this time it is on your tummy area. You can feel it but it doesn’t hurt at all. I think I felt like I needed to pee, but it wasn’t too bad at first. I do remember after about half an hour, really needing to poo, but they then gave an injection which relaxed your muscles, and the feeling went away. No I didn’t poo myself, although I told them I was worried that I would. The other difference with this scan is you go in feet first, and your head just about stays out the scanner. If I looked slightly back I could see the room, so again, not too bad. Because I was so ill my husband came in the room that time.
This is also a long winded scan, especially if it is the whole spine. I would say without trying to scare anyone, this is the scan that isn’t so nice for claustrophobics. You go all the way into the scanner, ( still with earphone etc) but because you don’t have the cage thing on your head, you don’t get the mirror, so have to look inside the scanner all the time. I did have one once where I said I was scared, and he found some prism glasses, that did the same thing as the head MRI, and I was fine again. Recently I had another without the specs and because I had had a fair few scans, I managed. Not my favourite though. I tried to spend most of the time with my eyes closed, but I am the nosy sort, so struggled to do this. When they moved me further in, I tried to look slightly behind and found I was nearly out the other end, so felt better about it.
All in all, these tests are for our benefit , with state of the art machines that can detect most things, they are safe and you are made to feel as comfortable as possible ( I sometimes get a blanket if I feel cold). So please try and keep calm, maybe ask your GP for a sedative or phone the department beforehand if you really can’t bear the thought of it.