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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

For anyone who is worried about having an MRI Scan – my experiences

I had my first MRI scan on my lower back 8 years ago and I hated it, so I was really frightened of having another one when my GP suggested it.

I think one of the main problems I found the first time is that it was not at all as I expected. 

You see people going in them on TV so you know roughly what to expect, BUT what you don’t expect or realise until you are actually in there, is just how close and small the tunnel is once a human being is in that hole.

I can distinctly remember seeing the tunnel and thinking how big it was and not being at all concerned when I lay down on that bed.  I was in for a total shock!

OK if I was a petite 5’2” slim woman it might not have been so bad but I am a “well rounded” 5’8” woman and those walls were close!

They gave me the choice of an eye mask if I wanted or some glasses with tilted lenses so you can look down past your feet to the open.  I chose these thinking that they would be better because I could “see out”.  Wrong – they were the worst things I could have chosen!

Once again, if you are petite they may have been OK but when you are my size it was a huge shock to see how small that tunnel was and I wish I hadn’t seen how little space there was above my body.  What the eyes don’t see…….etc. is a very appropriate saying in this case. 

I am a “pear shape” so I would think it would be even worse for an “apple shaped” person with a big tummy as they would seem like they filled the tunnel even more than me when they looked down with those glasses. 

I am not claustrophobic unless things are VERY close to me – I am fine in lifts but get a bit concerned in close crowds and don’t like narrow passageways or crawling through tunnels etc. 

If I had opted for the eye mask I would not have realised how close it was in there apart from realising my arms were touching the sides of course.  I am positive that my brain would not have realised how close the top was if it only had the closeness of the sides touching my arms to consider.  The eyes give a lot more away than the feel of the arms, I am sure.


Anyway, this time I did a bit of investigation and found that there are Open MRI scanners but there are only about 5 in the country I think and they were only used for very unusual patients as they were so expensive and took a lot longer.

But what I did find is that there are some Feet First MRI Scanners and not only that but my local hospital had 2 MRI Scanners and one of them was a Feet First.  I was, I think, overjoyed.  If I can call it that!

I was still dreading the scan but to go in feet first so that my head would be nearer the open air sounded soooo much better!  If I had to have one, I wanted that one.  Luckily my doctor agreed to send me for that one although the normal procedure was for doctors to send patients to the normal scanner.

I can now meditate so could “switch off” and I knew what to expect this time as well, so I can honestly say that this MRI Scan was a breeze.  I would have no worries or hesitation about having another one now.

Once I had sorted the Feet First scan out I just put it out of my mind right until I lay down on the MRI bed.  There was no point in thinking about it and getting myself in a state so I just put if out of my mind.

I took a CD along with me for them to play into the headphones and of course, just my luck, but the CD player had broken so they could only play the radio!

I obviously opted for the plain eye mask this time and just kept my eyes closed throughout.  She put me in very slowly and it just got very slightly darker as my head went in but I could almost feel (real or imagined) that the end of the tunnel was only just behind my head, which felt so totally different than when your head is in the dark end of the tunnel.

I felt so relaxed it was unbelievable and I could almost have fallen asleep, despite the fact that it is noisy in there.  The 3rd time the noise went on (which I presume was the 2nd scan, as the first one is only 20 seconds) it was like a gentle back massage as the bed vibrated a bit.  When I finally got up I felt a bit whoozy as I was so relaxed I think.

A totally and completely different experience to my first MRI – partly due to knowing what to expect, partly because I was so calm and mainly because I didn’t feel anywhere near so hemmed in when my head was so near the outside instead of being nearly 6’ in the tunnel.

So I certainly recommend that if you need an MRI scan and are at all claustrophobic then check with the hospitals around your area to find out if there is a Feet First MRI Scanner.  Don’t rely on your doctor to know because mine didn’t but of course he would now know for anyone in the future.

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