Friday, April 07, 2006


I had my first MRI today.

Ye gods.

A nurse technician pulled me out of the waiting room at the clinic, and brought me to the room where the machine is kept. I hadn't had lunch yet, and was a little scatterered due to messing up the driving instructions to get there in the first place.

I had to remove all metal from my person, outside of the rivets and buttons on my jeans. I had to sign a release stating that I didn't have any metal plates, shrapnel, stray BBs, artificial joints, wires or bolts in my body. Glasses, belt buckle, pens, credit cards, coins, and non-14K jewelry all had to go. My wedding ring is rose gold, a gold/copper alloy with a little palladium to make it malleable, but is 14K, so I got to keep it on.

The nursetech gave me a sticky button to apply to my neck, to mark the location of the cyst. She then had me insert a pair of bright yellow earplugs, to reduce the noise in the machine. She had pre-shaped the material to have points to fit into my ears. After inserting the plugs, I laid down on a narrow padded board, covered in a white material. It was on rails, with a cradle to hold my head and neck. The nurse tech slipped a pillow under my knees. She then put pads around my head to hold it in place, folded down a set of bars across my chest, and then a cage over my face. There was an odd set of folded mirrors right above my eyes that I couldn't determine the function of.

She asked if I was claustrophobic, and I gave a hesitant 'No'. She then laughed, and said I would be.

I folded my hands across my stomach, and she had me tuck in my elbows to fit into the machine. She then slid me in.

It was dimly lit in the cavity of the machine. Her voice cut in a few seconds later, over a really bad speaker, telling me to hold still, and that the first test was about to begin. Her parting advice was to pretend that I was somewhere else.

Each test began the same way. There was a set of loud clicks, like what an old car jack or a caulking gun makes, four or five in a row. There was then a set of three, loud, low frequency buzzes. Each seemed to come from a different direction, almost like they were establishing an X, Y and Z axis. Then the individual test began. The tests ran for five to seven minutes each. Sometimes, there was a steady, low frequency buzz. Other times it pulsed. A few times, there seemed to be buzzes of multiple frequencies, pulsing and not pulsing. The test could also pause for a moment, and then shift to a new frequency. Each test seemed to have a different set of frequencies.

Sometimes, the board that I was on would shift a few inches between tests.

The closest thing that I can describe the buzzing as is like the old style vibrating football games, where you set up players on both teams, and then vibrate the playing surface to get everyone to move. There was a knob where you could muck with the frequency or amplitude of the vibrations. If you cranked it all the way up, it made this really annoying throbbing noise, the little players would jump and fall about, and Mom would yell at us from another room in the house to stop it.

Between each test, the nurse would remind me to stay still.

On the second or third test, I started have problems breathing. I wasn't allowed to move during the tests, but I was short of breath. I took a careful inventory of myself, and decided that I was holding my hands over my stomach too tightly, because I was tensing up over all of the noise. I loosened my hands, and was able to breath normally.

A little later, and I the thought suddenly occurred to me that I shouldn't laugh. If I laughed, I was going to mess up the test. I would probably have to do the test over again, which would mean more time in the machine.

I then had to fight the impulse to giggle, since I wasn't allowed to laugh, and that was all I could think about. I finally diverted myself my thinking of other things.

Laying on my back, my throat started to get dry. I started to try to coordinate my swallows with the time between tests, and then the time between buzzing in the tests.

Soon, swallowing wasn't enough. My throat was getting dry, and it felt like something was running down the back of my throat. I did a few carefully timed closed mouth coughs, but eventually slipped up and coughed during the test (didn't want to cough all over the inside of the MRI machine if I could help it). I hoped that the algorithms processing the data would survive the coughs.

A different nurse pulled me out of the machine to give me some gadolinium for contrast. She asked how I was doing, as she put a tourniquet on my arm. I hoarsly told her my problem, and she gave me permission to try to cough. I couldn't get my hand close enough to my face due to all of the fixtures holding me down, but I finally got to do some open mouth coughs to clear my throat. When I was through, she pushed in the contrast, and then bandaged my arm.

It was then time to go back into the machine. I was in for three or four more tests, and one was a do-over because I had moved too much during a test.

After I was free from the machine, and had re-equipped myself with all of my posessions, I went back to the waiting room to await the delivery of the resulting films from the test. I'll bring them to my ENT for my appointment Tuesday morning.

The tests took about an hour to complete.

While driving home, my mind was a little scattered, and I don't know whether it was due to the MRI, the gadolinium contrast, or low blood sugar from missing lunch due to getting lost while finding the clinic. I was taking a different route back to my ENTs office, turning off of the Black Horse Pike on Evesham, and cutting over, rather than taking the 42 to the 295 north and back to work. I know that there was a slick way to cut over once I got to the White Horse Pike, or Haddonfield-Berlin Road, but I couldn't work it out clearly in my head. I finally took a longer route that only required two turns.


Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Thanks! I have wanted for some time now to know what an MRI was like. People talk about the noise and the claustraphobia. I've had CT Scans and PET Scans but they were both open.

4:57 PM  
Blogger SquidgePa said...

At work, since I am having so many tests, people have asked me the difference between a CT scan and a PET scan.

The answer is simple: CT scans use cats, while PET scans include dogs and a hamster on a long stick.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...


9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attempted my 1st MRI today. Had no idea I was claustrophobic til they rolled me in the machine. I decided in about 3 seconds that I would not be able to lay still in that tight spot for 25 minutes. I have re-scheduled another appointment and will try again with the aid of a valium. Hope it helps!

10:53 PM  

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