I had my first MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) yesterday morning. It was an interesting and challenging experience, so much that I wanted to offer some helpful advice to others who are having it done. As you can see from the picture, which is called a closed MRI, the person is placed in a machine, where their head, neck, or spinal area is going to get scanned. The machine surrounds most of your body, except your legs. In my MRI, I was actually moved a little further in the machine, such that only part of my legs were out of the machine.
Why an MRI
I’ve had some problem with vertigo, headaches, and dizziness in the last few months. In the past few weeks this has lessened, but since no cause has been able to be found from doctor’s, it was suggested that I get an MRI scan of my brain (the tests are already done and thankfully nothing was shown to be wrong). The MRI is for anyone needing a more detailed scan of the body and neurological systems.
What Happens During an MRI?
There are two different kinds of MRI’s that I know of: closed and open. It seems that closed MRI’s are more common. In this kind of MRI, you are placed on a platform that slides you inside a ‘tube’. Your body is covered and the quarters are very tight. An open MRI looks like this:
As you can see, the space is more open, and if I had to do it again, I’d want an ‘Open MRI’.
But I want to talk about my closed MRI and what happened to me, so that you may be guided as you prepare and experience your MRI. I got to the doctor’s office, signed in, got paged by the doctor, went to a dressing room (I was able to keep my clothes that I had, warm up pants and a regular shirt), and finally to the MRI room. There is a platform and a large machine. I didn’t think too much of it until the doctor told me to lay down on the platform. I was given ear plugs and he said some things to me about it, and to breathe and try to remain calm.
Eventually, my ear plugs were in and in went the platform. Once all the way in, this is where the shock set in. I opened my eyes and I literally wasn’t able to move much at all. I could move my arms slightly, and there was probably six inches from my body to the ceiling of the tube I was in. My head had a device placed over it to help with keeping it still, so my head was pretty much stuck where it was. My heart beat fast, and my breathing increased heavily. I had to meditate and do it fast. Being in such tight quarters really triggered a panic response from me. But I believe this was from not knowing what to expect going in.
I was able to calm myself down through intense conecntration and recalling memories of happiness and focusing on my determination and willpower. But it was not an easy experience by any means.
What You can Do
I believe if you follow this list of advice, that even a closed MRI experience can be tolerable, and you should do them if you are having anxious feelings, or even if you aren’t anxious, but just looking for adivce:
- Relax and forget about any problems you are having.
- Have a close friend come with you to pat you on the leg while the MRI is going on.
- Keep your eyes closed when you can. I actually had to open my eyes for about a minute as I got a little dizzy during part of the scanning, and was more dizzy with my eyes closed.
- Even with ear plugs, be prepared for loud noise inside the machine. Expect it and embrace it.
- Take a sedative (relaxation medicine). You can ask the doctor about this. Anything to help you relax will be helpful.
- Ask the doctor or your close friend to talk to you while the MRI is going on. Have them speak words of encouragement, or just carry on a conversation. With ear plugs in, they will need to speak a little louder than normal.
- Make sure you have gone to the bathroom.
- While in the machine, keep still and relaxed. Close your eyes and picture yourself in a happy place. This may be on the beach, on the basketball court, or playing with your children.
- Above all, keep positive thoughts in your head. Breathe deeply and dispel any fear that tries to enter you. It is possible to sit still and relax, even in a tight quartered tube.
- When the MRI is done, pat yourself on the back. You just conquered a challenge and you should reward yourself with a cool drink, lunch with a friend, or a nap!
I hope that some of this advice will help those who are having an MRI, or looking to relate to someone who just had a difficult MRI. When my MRI was done, after 25 minutes, I was very happy about getting out. I realized my preparation was not very good for the experience, and if I ever have to do it again, I am now armed with much more knowledge, which will better the experience!