What to Expect From an MRI: Advice From a Cushing’s Patient

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by Paris Dancy |

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Last week, I had a conversation with someone who injured their knee and will need an MRI. They expressed concern about the procedure, so I tried to advise them about what to expect and how long the process lasts. This got me thinking about the times I’ve had an MRI and the emotions I felt before the scan.

The first time was when I suffered a concussion during football practice as a high school sophomore. I don’t remember much about the procedure except the machine itself, which has always reminded me of something you’d see in a science fiction movie.

I didn’t have another MRI until 17 years later, in 2015, when my endocrinologist suspected I had a pituitary tumor. The scan ultimately confirmed it, and I was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease.

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In my experience, it can be difficult to get your health insurance company to cover an MRI, and without that coverage, the procedure can cost thousands of dollars. Although I had great insurance at the time, my medical team had difficulty getting coverage approved. My insurance company didn’t seem to understand that it was a necessary diagnostic procedure, as other tests had already ruled out many possible conditions based on my symptoms. As frustrating as the wait was, I was thankful to have strong advocates on my side who spoke with my insurance company.

Once my insurance company finally approved coverage, my pituitary MRI took only about 45 minutes.

There are two types of MRIs: contrast and non-contrast. Contrast involves injecting a dye intravenously that can give physicians a more detailed look at a certain part of the body. I’ve had both types done, both before my pituitary tumor was discovered and during my post-surgery follow-ups.

During my first contrast MRI, I had a reaction to the dye. My body started to feel warm, then I felt extremely nauseated, and within seconds, I was vomiting. Thankfully, I never had this reaction again.

When it was time to get into the machine, a tech led me in and helped me up. The machine is like a large tube, and you have to lie flat on your back inside of it, which can be very uncomfortable for some people. Due to my weight gain, it was always a tight fit, and remaining still the entire time was challenging.

I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but I can understand how it would affect others. Those who struggle with anxiety may have panic attacks inside the machine, but your doctor may be able to give you medication to help you relax.

Even though I was uncomfortable, I always tried to meditate and would ask the tech to turn on music to drown out the loud sounds the machine makes as it takes images. After the procedure is complete, the results are sent to the requesting physician.

I can honestly say that my experience with MRIs hasn’t been bad. I don’t like getting them, but I’ve found a way to get through them.


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.

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