So, it's all over. I got my MRI done today at Sloan Kettering, without taking the Ativan. While my claustrophobia is still a major issue, today's MRI test went much more smoothly than the last one.
What is an MRI like?
After a nurse runs your IV line, you go into the MRI room and lie down on the "patient table". For a liver MRI, you raise your hands over your head, and a technologist straps a "coil" over your chest - which looks a little like a baseball catcher's chest protector. Next, the entire table raises up so that it's even with the machine's opening, and the technologist pushes you into the MRI tunnel until you're completely inside.
After you're inside, the machine (which is a huge magnet) turns on...which is loud, REALLY loud. Periodically, the machine will instruct you to breath or hold your breath as it takes pictures. There will be a lot of loud buzzing and beeping - and toward the end of the test, a contrast die is injected into your IV. When it's all over, you get pulled out of the tunnel, and the table lowers down so it's easier to get off. The entire test takes anywhere from 35-40 min.
Top 5 Tips for MRI Testing
1. Wear pajamas and Uggs.
You can wear your own clothes for an MRI exam as long as there is absolutely no metal on them. This means nothing with snaps or zippers, no bras with underwire, and no metal aglets (the little tubes at the ends of sweatshirt strings and shoelaces). Make sure to also remove all jewelry.
2. Go in Feet First
For organ imaging (liver), request to be put into the machine "feet first". You still end up completely inside the machine, but it psychologically feels better when your head is the last thing to go inside the tunnel.
I love this cutaway diagram, mainly for the totally unnecessary identification of the "patient" - as if they were worried that people might mix up the "patient" with the "radio frequency coil" or the "gradient coils"
3. Get Blindfolded
Ask the technologist to give you a blindfold, and put it on before the table starts moving. This was a tip from my amazing friend (and hero) Sasha Cano, who won her battle with cancer after undergoing two brain mapping surgeries. Her story is nothing short of miraculous and inspirational, and she is featured in many of UCSF's advertisements (click HERE to read Sasha's story.) I don't know why it's so much better using a blindfold rather than just closing your eyes, but it really does help. Plus, you get to keep the snazzy blindfold as a lovely parting gift - BONUS!
4. Have a Secret Weapon
You need something to occupy your panicking mind for at least 30 minutes. I had two secret weapons: 1.) a folded-up slip of paper in my shoe with an inspirational quote printed on it and 2.) a cadbury creme egg in my purse. While I was in the tunnel, I kept repeating the quote over and over in my head, while visualizing myself safely in my car on the way home from the hospital, eating that creamy, chocolately egg-shaped treat.
5. Take a Break
When the nurse comes into the room to inject the contrast into your IV, ask to be pulled out of the machine for a few minutes. Don't take the blindfold off or move around... It's enough just to know that you're out if the tunnel, which allows your body to relax.