There are unduly negative associations with getting an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan. Part of this is because of how many times the scan is associated with a cancer scare or serious injury. And part of it is due to the many myths about MRIs. First, we’ll talk a little about what an MRI is. Then we’ll outline what to expect when getting an MRI.
The Different Types of MRI
MRI machines are a non-invasive way to look inside of the body. It doesn’t produce the radiation like X-rays, and it is far better at imaging soft tissues. That is why it is used to diagnose strokes, cysts, bulging disks, and blocked bile ducts.
Traditional MRI machines are the donut shaped devices most of us are familiar with, if we know anything about MRIs instead. They can be claustrophobic since they’re only two feet wide. But this is why other types of MRI machines were developed.
Wide bore MRIs are roughly 28 inches across. This is necessary to accommodate larger patients, and it is an option for those who are claustrophobic.
The open MIR is sometimes called “the flying saucer”. It has magnets above and below the patient but wide-open sides. This can give you airflow and visibility. This can eliminate the claustrophobia altogether. The downside is that open MRIs may not have the same image quality as closed MRIs. And the higher the image quality, in general, the more accurate the diagnosis.
Sitting and standing MRIs are made for patients can’t lie down or when it is very painful to do so. A sitting or standing MRI may also be used when the doctor wants an MRI when your body is bearing weight.
Now that you know about the various types of MRI machines, let’s outline what you can expect when getting an MRI.
Schedule the Appointment
You’re going to schedule the MRI appointment with a hospital or imaging center that has the necessary equipment. Discuss any health problems you have and tell them if you have claustrophobia. This allows them to make special accommodations as necessary. This could be anything from moving the scan to an open MRI to giving you anti-anxiety drugs before the scan. Let them know if you have implants or metal in your body such as old shrapnel, so they can accommodate it.
Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
Depending on the situation, you may be advised to follow your normal routine and take all your meds before the scan. Or your doctor may ask you to take certain medications in advance of the appointment. Note that you should not drive if you’re taking anti-anxiety or sedative medication before you go to the appointment. And if you’re taking these medications before you lie down in the MRI, you’ll need someone else to drive you home.
Make Arrangements to Leave the Metal Items outside the Exam Room
An MRI machine uses powerful magnets to scan your body. This means you’ll need to leave your metal jewelry outside of the room. It is best to leave your souvenir dog tags or wedding ring at home, while leaving it with a friend in the waiting room is second-best. Don’t wear your glasses, retainer or metal knee brace in the MRI machine, either. Don’t wear hairpins and other items that could get caught up in the MRI to the appointment.
Prep for the Scan
Show up at least thirty minutes before the scheduled MRI scan. The technologist will have you change into a hospital gown. You can wear cotton underwear, but underwire bras need to be removed. If you didn’t leave valuables at home and don’t have someone to hold onto your car keys, you’re going to need to put your belongings in a secure place.
You may be given MRI contrast media to improve the quality of the MRI images. For example, this may be done in order to diagnose multiple sclerosis. These dyes will be given by IV just before the scan.
Don’t worry about the maintenance and functionality of the machine. It is calibrated according to manufacture specification and when it was not function the service engineer replace the MRI spare parts well and calibrated the system to work according to manufacture specification .
Enter the Scanner
The patient will either sit on a bench or lay down on a bed. MRI scans take anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour per body part scanned. You’ll have to lie still as you’re scanned. This is why people may be restrained during the process. You may be asked to hold your breath for up to thirty seconds in certain cases.
Know that you won’t be enclosed alone in a metal tube. The magnet is open at both ends, and air will be blown through it. It is lit. And there is generally an intercom system in the MRI. After all, that’s how they’ll be able to tell you when you need to hold your breath. There is also a call button so that you can alert them when something is wrong.
Note that there will be noises as the scan takes place. There will be clunking and buzzing noises as the magnets shift and engage. This isn’t a problem in most cases. You can be given noise canceling headphones or earplugs, if it is too distracting for you. However, deep breathing probably isn’t a solution. The motion can affect scans of your chest or stomach. A few centers have MRI-safe video goggles that allow someone to watch a movie during the MRI.
Get Ready to Leave
When the scan is done, you’ll be pulled from the machine. If they gave you a dye injection or sedatives via an IV, the IV will be removed. You may be monitored for an allergic reaction if you were given gadolinium dye. (This is rare.) If you were given video goggles or headphones, you’ll have to give them back.
Then you can get dressed. If you weren’t given any type of sedative medication, you can get ready to leave. If you were sedated for the MRI, they’ll wait for you to wake up before they send you home. And someone else will have to drive you home.