Many first-time MRI patients get nervous about what to expect. Even those who have had one before can have some anxiety about the experience — especially if it’s been a while since they’ve had one. All that to say, if you’re feeling nervous, it’s completely normal! Your doctor will walk you through what to expect, but we all also have an overview of the all-mighty MRI.
An MRI is…
The best place to start is to first understand what an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is. It’s a diagnostic tool used to confirm the presence or progression of an illness or injury. They use of magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images that show your anatomy and the way different physiological functions of your body.
Why an MRI?
MRIs translate images with a great deal of detail, which provides a high resolution, accurate pictures., especially difficult to image soft tissue injuries and disorders. They also don’t expose you to radiation like other scanning tools, which is a concern of some patients.
Patients with conditions that may require an MRI typically have a type of injury, disorder, or brain event, which is best visualized with one. A doctor will generally prescribe one for the following reasons:
- Better see and understand an injury
- Map brain function
- Monitor a chronic or degenerative illness
Prepare for Your MRI
First and foremost, trust in your medical professional to ensure you have everything you need for a successful and safe MRI experience. Then keep in mind the following:
- Magnetic fields nor radio waves won’t be physically felt during the test.
- Scans typically last from 45 minutes to one hour.
- Loud clanging noises during the MRI will happen.
- The machine contains lights and a fan in order to reduce discomfort.
- Make sure your doctor knows about any metal objects in your body (e.g. pacemakers, insulin pumps, artificial valves, cochlear implants, prosthetics, and several other types of metal implants).
Although you might intellectually understand what an MRI entails, that doesn’t always help assuage our physiological reactions to having to get one. That is why you should absolutely discuss any concerns you have with your doctor ahead of time. Potential solutions are available to help alleviate them.
Noise: With this imaging test, some patients have reported that there is a loud noise that can be distracting or bothersome. This noise is stemming from the small magnets that rotate over a magnetic field to get the best view of the part of the body that needs analysis.
Sedation is an option. If the noise is something you think may concern you, speak with our team of doctors prior to the MRI about medication to help relax you throughout the MRI.
Claustrophobia: An MRI is performed in a small area and can take around 45 minutes, so for some, the small space and length of time can be a concern for some patients as claustrophobia can set in. However, there are solutions to those fears as well!
Sedation, again, is a possible option to help get through the test. An open MRI is also a possibility for those who need an open space; however, a closed is usually the preferred method. The option of an extremity MRI can be explored as well. It allows for only the part of the body affected to be placed inside the machine, which minimizes a claustrophobic reaction. However, this kind is not available for injuries to the spine, hip, or pelvis.
No matter what your expectation may be, particularly if this is your first MRI scan, keep in mind that this form of diagnostic imaging test is safe when administered correctly, and can be incredibly helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of what ails you.