What To Expect During An MRI Scan

I first posted this on my original blog and have since removed it (along with all other posts). However, as it proved to be a popular post I give you..... What To Expect During An MRI Scan.

Image courtesy of google (link)

A lot of the content on my blog is very light and 'fluffy' but behind the scenes everything is not so cheery and light-hearted. Over the last 8 months I have had 2 MRI scans, one lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes and the 2nd only half an hour. I had no idea what to expect going into that first appointment so now I am sharing some pearls of wisdom.

When I arrived at my appointment, I wasn't waiting very long before the nurse called me through. She took my weight and we went through the pre-scan questionnaire, this is routine and a safety measure to check for any metal in your body etc. I was then asked to change into the hospital gown as you have to take everything off (they are nice enough to let you keep your knickers on though).

I was taken in a small room that reminded me of a bank vault, it had no windows and seemed underground. I was asked to leave my locker key with the nurses and remove my shoes before going into the room. The machine itself looks like a really big plastic Smartie's tube with a bed sticking out of it. I was asked to lay down and place my head into a rest, I was given ear plugs to help drown out the noise - because things get LOUD. The nurse placed padding around my head before finally placing what looked like a hockey mask over my face and then it began.

1. Don't wear metal
When they said not to have metal near the machine I didn't think much of it. But that shit is serious! I mean, check out this video playing with an MRI machine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BBx8BwLhqg NO THANK YOU. I was surprised that they took no measures to check me for metal. Obviously they have a questionnaire that you fill out that asked about metal replacements in your body etc but I would have thought they'd have a metal detector or something for jewellery. I don't fancy having an earring ripped out!

2. The bed will move
The nurse told be not to be alarmed if the bed moved slightly, it is because the machine is moving you into a new position for your  next scan. There is a slight padding by your arms so you won't hurt yourself or anything. Although I was fully prepared for the bed to move, I was not expecting it to start rocking and trembling.  
3. Close your eyes before you go through the machine
This may be down to each individual's taste but I found it easier to remain calm and forget where I was if I kept my eyes closed the entire time. I was conscious that I couldn't move, of course when you are told not to move you immediately want to dance, and the top of the machine felt close to my face, it felt as though I was in a casket. The feeling of claustrophobia, even if you don't normally have it, can get very real, very quickly.

4. It's loud.
I wasn't prepared for just how loud the machine would be. They give you ear plugs and padding around the ears but it is so loud that it is very hard to forget what is actually happening around you. I found that I began to focus more on the rhythm the machine was making, it sounded like a mix of drum and bass, a faulty alarm clock and someone banging on the outside. In the end the noise gave me a headache and I felt dizzy after I came out. The nurse told me that these were very common reactions, so sit up slowly and take a deep breath before trying to stand. 

5. Don't panic.
The nurses will speak to you every few minutes to make sure you are OK, but when they lay you on the bed they give you panic ball. Although the nurses can speak to you through a microphone, if you start screaming, they won't be able to hear you. You're effectively in a padded cell. So if you start to panic, squeeze that ball and they whip you out asap. I found that there were several instances where overwhelming panic washed over me but somehow I managed to keep going and get through it.

An MRI Scan is nothing to be scared of, everyone will have a different experience and have a different method of getting through it. For me the nurses around me helped me feel calm and comfortable through the experience. Either way you will be fine and it may be the scan that changes your life. The NHS offer some great advice also Link here.

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