How to Survive an MRI?

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to undergo an MRI scan. I was getting my lumbar spine examined, which has been bothering me since an inflammation of the sciatic nerve. For peace of mind, I decided to have this examination to ensure nothing was wrong. My cousin, who is a doctor and always knows what she’s talking about, convinced me to do it.

Want to survive an MRI? Maintain a positive attitude!

I’ll tell you that at first, I was very optimistic about the examination, which takes place in a large tube. I didn’t anticipate feeling afraid or stressed about being placed in equipment with so little space. Until then.

My mother-in-law, recalling her MRI experience, said she thought she would die there and kill those who made her go in. Nevertheless, I still approached it with a bit of humor, claiming that no fear would catch me.

However, I’d be lying if I said that right before entering the machinery, I didn’t feel fear. I did, thanks to the doctor who, out of duty, decided to scare me too. He handed me a small pump/bulb to press “if I panicked, became afraid, and wanted to stop the examination.” In short, the doctor, fulfilling his duty, unfortunately aroused fear in me because I immediately started imagining thousands of people signaling that they want to stop this unfortunate examination.

Maybe it’s better not to think too much?

Shortly after he said that to me, I decided to look behind me into the narrow tunnel I was about to enter. And I got a bit scared. But it quickly passed, thanks to me already having a plan on what to do to smoothly survive the MRI scan.

I closed my eyes, started to meditate, and from that moment until I came out of the MRI machine, I didn’t open my eyes and didn’t think about what was happening. I meditated, relaxed my mind, tuned it. The whole examination flew by quickly, and I felt better afterward because I calmed my mind. Even the strange noises made by the equipment didn’t bother me.

So, if you have an MRI scan coming up and are afraid of having a panic attack, I recommend this method. Don’t look inside, close your eyes, and don’t think about the examination, try to feel as if you were lying on a meadow, sunbathing on the beach, or resting in a place you like.

Emotions during an MRI are unavoidable

You must forgive yourself for the stress and emotions associated with the examination. In fact, you should even be grateful to your subconscious for stressing you out. It sends you a signal that something unpleasant may happen. Accept it, let your subconscious know that you understand, but that in reality, nothing bad will happen. Because this stressful examination is very effective and can give you answers to questions that no one has been able to answer before.

However, the results of the MRI may be more stressful

Honestly, from my own experience, the results and everything that starts today after receiving them can be more stressful than the examination itself. In my case, it ended with a months-long odyssey to doctors, which finally concluded with another MRI scan, and then surgery on the lumbar segment L5-S1. In the meantime, there were various attempts at treatment from massages, through manual therapies, to an epidural injection. Unfortunately, nothing helped, and the repeat MRI showed that the results had significantly worsened.

I know this fact is not comforting. However, I want you to understand that it’s worth going for an MRI and worth enduring it, as its results clearly show what needs to be done for you to start feeling better. I want you to remember this when you feel you might have a panic attack during the MRI.

I survived the darn surgery, went through some tough times, but now I’m satisfied. Sure, something might hurt me from time to time, but at least I can function normally and, for now, I don’t need to think about further examinations. Hopefully, it stays that way as long as possible.

What sounds does an MRI make?

During the examination, the patient may hear various loud and unsettling sounds, such as:

  • Bangs
  • Whistles
  • Crackling sounds
  • Thumping sounds

These are generated by changes in the magnetic field and radio waves used to create images inside the body. The patient may also hear noises generated by fans and other computer devices. Remember, the patient is under the care of an MRI technician the whole time and can request a reduction in volume or other actions if needed.

How long does an MRI of the head take?

The duration of a head MRI can vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • The type of examination (e.g., T1, T2, FLAIR)
  • The number of scans
  • The imaging method
  • The patient’s condition (e.g., whether the patient is a child or an elderly person)

Typically, a head MRI takes from 15 minutes to half an hour. However, for more complicated examinations or in cases where the patient requires special preparation, the examination time can be longer. It’s important for the patient to prepare properly for the examination (e.g., remove jewelry, glasses, take out hearing aids, etc.) and inform the doctor about any illnesses or medications to avoid unnecessary risks and ensure the examination’s effectiveness.

How long does an MRI of the lumbar spine take?

The duration of an MRI of the lumbar spine can vary depending on the individual situation of the patient and the type of examination being performed. Usually, it lasts from 15 to 45 minutes.

How to dress for an MRI?

Before undergoing an MRI, all metal objects should be left outside the hospital or clinic, as they can interfere with the images and disrupt the examination.

Regarding clothing, it’s best to wear clothes without metal elements, such as buttons, zippers, clasps, buckles, etc. You may also leave your clothes in the changing room and wear special clothing provided by the medical staff.

Can an MRI examination be interrupted?

Yes, the patient has the right to interrupt the MRI examination at any time. If the patient feels uncomfortable or has any doubts about the safety of the examination, they should immediately inform the medical staff. If the patient feels uncomfortable or is afraid of being enclosed in the MRI tunnel, the doctor may decide to perform the examination using an Open MRI technique, which allows the examination to be conducted without enclosing the patient in a tunnel.

If the patient has any concerns about the examination, it’s important to inform the doctor before the examination so the doctor can prepare properly for the examination and ensure the patient’s comfort.

What to do in case of a panic attack during an MRI?

In the event of a panic attack during an MRI, the patient should immediately inform the medical staff. The doctor or medical technician will be able to stop the examination immediately and provide the patient with care and assistance. This may include providing the patient with a calm and quiet environment, administering sedatives, and contacting a psychologist or psychiatrist if necessary.

If the patient is prone to panic attacks, it’s important to discuss this with the doctor before the examination and choose an appropriate strategy to avoid or minimize the risk of a panic attack during the examination.

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