MS and MRI’s – 3/7/19

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I wrote this article about my MRI experience way back in 2007. I’d been having some problems related to my MS. My regular neurologist had moved out of state so I was getting a new one. My new neurologist’s name was Dr. Scarberry. She wanted me to get a new MRI so she could evaluate me. At the time I lived 20 miles from Fargo, ND. The day of the MRI I drove to the downtown Fargo hospital.

After checking in at the hospital and doing the necessary paperwork you’re sent to a dressing room. You may have to change clothes but in my case I simply emptied my pockets of coins, my metal belt, money clip and my shoes into a locker that locked. What you can wear during the test depends on what you are wearing when you show up. Other things that can’t be worn are jewelry, watches, keys, credit cards and so on.

I was told metal objects can stop radio frequency waves from getting into a person’s body and cause distorted images. You’ll have to leave those items in the locker during the test. Certain clothing which contain metal zippers, rivets, wires and belt buckles are a no-no. These will have to stay in that locker and you’ll have to wear a gown. (oh goodie)!

The MRI machine is a large, tube-shaped machine that patients lie within, and the MRI creates a strong magnetic field around the patient. The magnetic field and related pulses of radio waves produce signals from the body that are detected and converted into images by a computer.

A MRI can see through bone so it is especially useful for looking deep into the body. It can look beneath nerve coverings, see damage from a stroke or probe blood vessels. It can look at the heart for disease or in my case check for more MS lesion growth. The radiologist examining the monitor image can program the computer to show cross-section slices of the image for a closer look.

In case you’ve never done an MRI they are NOISY! The tech told me it had something to do with the coils in the machine. That made no sense at all to a mechanically inept person like me. He gave me earplugs for the noise but even with them it was extremely LOUD!

The technician then asked me if I was claustrophobic and I said, when you give me that emergency button I won’t be. There’s an emergency button on a rope which you hold in your hand and it goes into the MRI machine with you. A person can push the button at any time which signals the tech that you want to get out of the machine. That’s in case you get claustrophobic or have to go to the bathroom.

To tell you the truth I’m a little claustrophobic. Having that button to push if I got scared, panicked or had some problem made a difference for me. I would be lying on my back for the procedure. The tech was really nice and helped me get into a prone position. My legs don’t always respond to what my brain tells them to do so I needed some help.

After getting settled in the tech went in another room. The room was facing the MRI machine where the MRI controls were. The techs can talk to you after you’re in the machine. The table I was laying on starts moving and before you know it you’re inside the machine. The tech might ask you if you’re doing OK and later asks you to hold your breath for 6 seconds to do a procedure.

When in the cylinder a person should stay as still as possible. In the beginning it sounded like someone was knocking on the door. This noise wasn’t too bad but then the really loud knocking started. It sounded like someone was banging on a metal bucket with a baseball bat. Believe it or not I dozed off a couple of times but always woke up when that metal bucket was getting banged on.

If for any reason the tech does have to pull you out then they have to start the test over from the beginning. Since I didn’t want that to happen I stayed as still as I could. After about an hour the tech pulled me out again because he had to give me a shot of dye. The dye makes the pictures better but don’t quote me on that.

They now make open sided MRI machines for people with claustrophobia. I guess those machines don’t do as good a job so I always choose the cylinder type. When the test was done I drove the 20 miles back home and relaxed. An MRI is not that big of a deal but I guess for me it was kind of stressful. I don’t mean sitting in the cylinder but thinking about my life and my MS. Is it getting worse? What is my life going to be like in the future? All these things went through my head. For me that is the stressful part!

The next day I called my physicians assistant. He explained my MRI to me. I didn’t have any new lesions but he said there were some areas that showed that the disease was unsettled. All I knew was that I was now considered to have Secondary Progressive MS. My MS was not getting any better which I knew before I did the MRI.