As part of my treatment for the head and neck injury I sustained last week, which I told you about on Wednesday, my chiropractor wanted me to have an MRI of my cervical spine, neck soft tissues and my brain. I have never had an MRI before so I did some research before I had my test done last night. I’m glad I did the research because I wan’t told what to expect at all by any of the staff at the imaging center. So while I laid there in the MRI machine I thought about you and I decided I should let you know what to expect if you or a loved one ever need an MRI.
What is an MRI?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. An MRI scan can produce pictures that are like slicing the body part or organ being scanned into thin slices so that your doctor can see even very tiny changes that need attention. The MRI scanner is a tube surrounded by a giant circular magnet. The patient is placed on a moveable bed that slides into the magnet. The magnet creates a strong magnetic field that aligns the protons of hydrogen atoms, which are then exposed to a beam of radio waves. This spins the various protons of the body, and they produce a faint signal that is detected by the receiver portion of the MRI scanner. The receiver information is processed by a computer, and an image is produced. Pretty cool, right?
I was taken back to a changing room and told to remove my bra but leave my shirt on, I had on a loose fitting top with no metal on it. I was alo told to remove any jewelry, but I had left it all at home. I placed my bra and my purse in a locker in the changing room and took the key with me. Then I sat in the back waiting room until the technician called me back. He asked me if I had ever had an MRI before and I said, “No.” He said “They aren’t too bad.” He walked me back to the MRI room and told me to place my glasses, and locker key on a table by the door. Then he said each test takes about 10 minutes and he told me to lie down with my head on the tiny pillow. He placed another pillow under my knees and he handed me a button to push if I needed to come out of the tube before the test was finished. Then he asked if I’d like to listen to some music and I said sure so he put some big bulky headphones on me, told me to stay perfectly still and before I knew it I was sliding into the tube.
I have been known to be a bit claustrophobic so I was dreading this part. HINT-close your eyes as soon as you lie down so you don’t see yourself going into the tube. The Easy Listening music started playing in my headphones and then the machine started making loud whirring, humming and thumping noises. I was surprised at how loud the machine was. I busied myself by writing this blog post in my head during the first part of the scan. Part way through the scan the tech spoke through the headphones to tell me that the table was going to move a bit and not to worry, I assume this is when he changed from doing the C-Spine to the neck scan. Several minutes later the table moved again without warning and the scan was over. Once I was out of the machine the tech asked me to stand up because he had to change some things around to do the brain scan…we weren’t finished!
He moved some things around and then placed a plastic cage-like thing up with the pillow (see photo above). I had to lay down with this cage over my entire head/face! I closed my eyes as soon as I put the headphones back on because I didn’t want to see the cage close over me. He said this test would take about 10 minutes and then I’d be done. So back in the tube I went. This time I paid more attention to the music to keep my brain occupied. I figured most songs are 3-4 minutes long so if I counted songs I should be done in about 3-4 songs. The first song that played was Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”, the album version which went on forever (when I got home I looked it up-it is 6 minutes and 12 seconds long!). As the 4th song started I was again slid out of the machine and I was able to go home.
What You Need to Know
- The machine is VERY loud, if they offer music-use it.
- Close your eyes BEFORE they slide you into the tube and keep them closed the entire time.
- Breathe normally.
- You will be at the imaging center 60-90 minutes.
- If you are having a test “with contrast” they will do the test once then inject you with the contrast material and do the test again.
- It isn’t fun but it doesn’t hurt either
- You will survive
I hope you never need to have an MRI but if you do, I hope you know a little better what to expect before they slide you into the big tube. I’ll be getting my results from my doctor next week and I’ll share the results on Facebook and Twitter so make sure you are following me.
This post is in no way to be interpreted as medical advise. These are just my thoughts and experiences with a medical test.