My First MRI

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I had my first MRI today in order to find out why my butt has been hurting (and bleeding) over a year since my proctectomy.  I’d be nice if perianal disease could quit being such a pain in the ass!

The experience was interesting, and if you have an IBD, you may at some point need an MRI too. Of course, no two experiences are the same, so keep that in mind while I explain how my day went.

What is an MRI?

An MRI is a technology that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images that offer a different look into the body compared to x-rays or CT scans. My doc had suggested the MRI over another CT scan (which I had done earlier in the year because of my intestinal blockage), since MRI scans are safer and emit no ionizing radiation (which can damage cells).

There is no special prep needed for the test, other than not to eat or drink 4 hours before.  I knew that if I didn’t eat that morning, my stoma would stay quiet for the day, so I skipped both breakfast and lunch.

I had the test done at Toronto General Hospital, which is across the street from Mount Sinai – the hospital I had my ostomy surgery at. I was scheduled for 2:30 pm, and I made it there a bit early in case there were any forms to complete.  Surely enough, there was a form asking me about any health problems, allergies and if I have metal in my body (it is EXTREMELY important that the hospital knows if you’ve got metal in your body!).

With the form completed, I was I taken to a change area where I had been asked to put on a hospital gown:

A hopital gown is never out of style
Winter Fashion 2014

Being the weekend, the hospital was pretty empty,which meant there wasn’t really any waiting to be done.  After getting changed I was taken to get an IV line prepped and to answer more questions.  The IV line isn’t to get fluids, but it’s used to deliver a contrast dye during the scan (the dye used was called “Gadovist”).

The MRI room was pretty cool (as in geeky cool, not air-conditioned cool), and if you’ve never seen an MRI machine, it makes quite a first impression! This is one big-ass machine!

MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging photo from thomas23
Photo credit: thomas23 of Flickr (MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

I was asked to lay on the shuttle table and to remain perfectly still throughout the scan (30 minutes or so).  I was also given a bulb that could be squeezed in an emergency so the MRI technician could stop the test. What kind of emergency, you ask? Well, I would imagine that most alarms are triggered because of panic, by I was told that if anything hurts  (especially after the contrast dye is injected),I should trigger the alarm.

Before going in, I was given a pair of headphones (to block out sound, but also to get instructions from the MRI tech ), and was sent in.

I will say that even if you aren’t claustrophobic, the  MRI tunnel may still make you uncomfortable,because you aren’t allowed to move, like you would be able to in a tanning bed; the ends of the tunnel are both open, so you aren’t completely caged in.   There was a cool breeze on my chest from a vent just above my head, which was a nice feeling: close your eyes and you’d feel as if you’re on the beach (sort of).

The sound that an MRI makes is probably what gives it a bad reputation.  Many people will describe it as a loud knocking, but the MRI tech explained that depending on what they are scanning, the sound changes.  Mine sounded like a synth effect you’d here in a dance song or alarm, but there was no knocking that I could remember.

While the tone of the sound changed during certain points in the test, it sounded a lot like this:

Because I had the headphones on, the buzzing wasn’t loud, although the headphones had some chirping sounds going on in the background.  It was quite relaxing to be honest; I love ambient or repeating sounds, so that could be why. I could have easily fallen asleep in that tunnel, but I’m sure waking up in a strange place wouldn’t be very fun.

There were no strange feelings during the test (that’s good, right? ), other than when the contrast dye was pumped into the IV line.  This was done during the last five minutes of the test, and I was given a warning by the MRI tech that I could experience a cold sensation in my body and/or notice a strange taste or smell. Sadly (or luckily), I didn’t experience any if that, but I could feel the fluid going in.

And that was it. Now I wait for the results, which could take a week or less), and decide what the game plan is from there.

QUESTION : Have you had an MRI? How was your experience?

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Hammer Schmidt
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Hammer Schmidt

Ironic: vegan-centric blog discussing an MRI, which is NOT vegan (ALL medical imaging contains gelatin)

Dona
Member

I too have had CT’s ( easy) and MRI’s with contrast ( no fun at all)…but I remember  the time when when  doctors did not have these non invasive techniques and used to do ‘exploratory surgery’. This HAS to be so much better.

john68
Member

Very good point Dona, we have all had embarrassing and painful examinations and the CT and MRI scans are state of the art technology which keep the patients dignity. Also they can show up more than a lot of other tests will not 

LK
Member

I have had both done. The CT Scan is great with only the IV contrast. A breeze I would say. However when I had the MRI I hated it royally. Drinking that stuff was what I imagine drinking a stale puddle of sea water was like. YUK!  I had to drink it in a certain time limit as well, and trying hard to keep it down, not to mention taking the next swallow.  It was so GROSS. My son was there,  he said MOM…you have gone through so much in life, your tougher then I can ever be. I can’t even take a Tylenol 3 he said. Now drink it,  he said with authority.  I was honestly afraid to disappoint him so I took that deep breath and swallow after swallow I got it down. In the machine, I almost cried.  I could really feel my insides vibrating to a weird foreign beat. I am sure I had the same look on my face that Eric has in the picture with his story of the test. Has anyone else ever felt that?  I thought I was going to vibrate all the way home and for days after.  I swore I would never have one again. I made them stop the test several times because of it.  It did scare me. I thought it might throw my heart into one of its crazy arrhythmias, but, it did not. I was unusually sensitive about things at that time and my life. I was glad the test was finally over.  I know that because of it, they were able to make the diagnoses, so it is an important test.  Yes, I would go through it again if I had to.  I would encourage anyone to go through it if their doctor ordered it. These tests that we do not like much at all, have their purpose. Do not let your fear get in the way.  Suck it up, be strong and say a little prayer. Then smile. Climb on the table and get er’ done. Everyone is different in how our bodies respond to things, just remember that because I felt the vibration does not mean you will.  They told me that out of all the tests they had done, I was the second person to feel it like that. All it was, was a vibration.  

Capercrohnie
Member
Capercrohnie

I had a MRI pre surgery to map out my fistulas and soon I’m having a MRE aka MR enterography which is where you drink the contrast specifically to highlight your small intestine though it shows your entire pelvis. I hope my ileostomy bag doesn’t blow up during the hour in the scanner after drinking 1.5 litre contrast!

Deb Moran
Guest
Deb Moran

I had it done and never will again after drinking that crap, it went right through me they had to stop the test many times so i could empty my pouch, not to mention how sickening that contrast is. Now they want to do the iv contrast, not sure i want that either.

john68
Member

Hi Deb,  I had this test done with the iv, and am glad to tell you that its pretty straight forward. I was told I may feel like I was going to wet myself which I can assure you is only a feeling :-) and I slight warm feeling in the back of my throat. So hope this helps with any fears. :-) 

larasmom
Guest

Thank you for this. I have to go for one in January to rule out Crohn’s in my small intestine after having a total proctectomy in September. You just eased my fears!