How I Got Through My 1st Brain MRI — and You Can, Too
Anxious? This columnist briefs you on what happens, and adds advice
I don’t particularly like tight spaces that make obnoxious washer and dryer sounds, but I guess these machines come in handy if you’re trying to confirm a pituitary adenoma (or anything in the brain, really).
An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is an intimidating process for some. Oddly enough, MRIs and I have somehow built quite the relationship over the past 11 years. You could say that we’re kinda tight: After all, I’ve had a tectal glioma (a benign tumor on the brain stem) and hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain).
I remember my first experience with this type of imaging. Before I actually took my two-hour nap in the machine, I was given a lengthy checklist:
Cochlear implant? No.
Pregnant? No. (Well, that answer looks a bit different now.)
Metal implants? No.
The list looks more extensive than this. These are just some examples of what someone would be asked.
I didn’t know what to expect my first time around. I changed into one of those cute patient gowns, removed my jewelry, and walked into the icy exam room. It felt like my skin was going to form a thin layer of ice, I was so cold!
The technician provided a pillow for under my knees, which made the process much more comfortable, and I got a warm blanket that felt as if they toasted it in the sun for a few hours just for me. The technician also gave me some spongey orange earplugs, which were a pain to shove in my ears. After I lay down, they put a U-shaped pillow over my head, along with a basket-looking thing.
What’s interesting here is that before I had Cushing’s disease, the “cage,” if you will, never bothered me. However, during my MRIs with Cushing’s disease, I couldn’t stand the feeling of something placed over my face. I felt like it was going to crash into me. My nose would get tingly, and I had to close my eyes. It made me nervous and uncomfortable.
Once I was set that first time, they rolled me back into the tube. Imagine opening and closing a kitchen drawer, and you’re, well, lying in the drawer. It’s pretty dark inside the machine, so I kept my eyes closed.
Then it happens. BEEP BEEP. BOOP BOOP. All the classic, weird electronic sounds with an MRI’s personality. Since I was in there for so long, I listened to the patterns of the machine and made it into a hip-hop beat in my head. I imagined me doing some funky moves to the sounds. I know, weird, but what else would I do for two hours while staying completely still the whole time?
About halfway through the scan, they pulled me out to inject a contrast. Eleven years ago, they actually had to roll me out, stick me with one of those fun needles, and then roll me back in. Now, technicians are nice enough to hook up an IV to your arm. A huge shoutout to them because anticipating the needle poke always gave me anxiety. Now, they just release the dye when it’s time.
All in all, if you’re claustrophobic, I recommend closing your eyes and letting your mind take you to wherever you want to go. It helps with the nervousness and pressure you may feel on your body. Also, the MRI technicians are there to help! Be real with them about any fears you have. Odds are they’ve dealt with these anxieties before and can help you navigate them.
MRIs aren’t my favorite, but through experience, the help of technicians, and improvements to the process, they’re not unbearable.
Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.