Sunday, November 10, 2013

My First MRI Experience... Not So Sweet

My first MRI experience took place only a few days ago, but left me out of sorts a bit. Why had no one told me what it would be like or was I just being a big whiner about it all? So I asked on a Facebook group I am privileged to be a part of an only a few commented about the MRI and one lady mentioned after doing them for five years as part of her radical screening in place of PBM that she finally decided to get the mastectomy so she didn't have to go through the MRI once a year for the rest of her life.

So, I was told by many that the MRI machine was loud, that they would have me lay face down and my breast would be "cradled" in coils, and that I would "be the filling I a big cannoli".
Well I definitely went into the appointment with a "no big deal" attitude and I think the not knowing was what ended up being to my detriment. All I can say is looking back it "should" have not been a big deal.... But it was. Probably not the biggest deal but it made everything I am doing leading up to my surgery seem so maybe that is why I had a hard time with it.

So let me try and describe what to "expect" of you are reading this hoping to be better prepared (then me of course).

First, I was asked to change into one of the lovely hospital gowns with snaps on the shoulders and it open in the front. They would have given me hospital pants (didn't know they had those), but the girl looked at me and said they don't have any comfortable ones for me (aka big enough for me). Lucky for them my mom told me to wear my stretchy lounge pants that don't have any metal in them..score I got to keep my own bottoms on!!

Second, they led me down the hall to a room with a second smaller room MRI room inside of it and opened the big pressure release door to reveal the actual MRI machine.

But what I wasn't really prepared for was the contraption the were going to have me lay in with my breast hanging down through openings, that were not coils and they were not cradled. The breasts were fine, it was the sloping portion of the machine that went from my belly to my chests and all the pressure hit my ribs and sternum. It was uncomfortable instantly and pain started to radiate through my back. But I am pretty sure I could have handled the physical discomfort and the two attempts to insert an IV in me so they could eventually release a liquid contrast that would help them better photograph the girls... however, it was the mental part that eventually knocked me sideways.

You are asked to NOT MOVE at all or run the risk of having to start the process again. They do give you a panic button, but again warn you that if they have to stop I will have to return another day.
This is not me...but what I would have looked like had someone taken a photo.
The bed is lifted up once the patient is in position and fed into the tube feet first.
This photo doesn't show her with an IV for the contrast solution or the panic button.

Here's a side view with clothed model...still not sure if arms
up over head or down along sides would have been better.

One note worth mentioning is I do experience PANIC attacks on occasion. It seems to be when I am stuck in a situation or location that I cannot see or understand the being shoved in the Vatican with thousands of people shoulder to shoulder and not knowing how to get out (yes this really happened). I am not sure if I would call it claustrophobia or not, but the panic attack is not the funnest side affect of being in this situation.I did start to experience the onset of a panic attack but held it together and totally lost it when I got to the dressing room. I couldn't talk to my mom until we got out to the car and I'm not sure she completely understood me until I stopped crying.

So the process of having an MRI takes about 45-60 minutes from set-up to finish. The actual "hold still" is done in chunks of time that are 4, 5 and 9 minute chunks and alone would be tolerable but the longest chunk of time is at the end when you are completely stressed, tired and want out. It probably was good I was face down, I couldn't see how tight the fit was as far as being the "filling in this metal cannoli"...but I could "feel" my butt and back touch the top of the interior of the machine and kept telling myself it really wasn't that small.

In hindsight I do believe my tendency to experience panic attacks probably was what resulted in my not so fun experience. But I will tell you the next time (if there is one) I am going to request some Valium or anti-anxiety meds and the biggest MRI they have (UofU has two sizes and I am sure I was in the smaller one). Oh and I'm not going to do the "calming" music mix of Adell and Sara Barellis...I'm going full on PINK. I think louder upbeat music with a bit of rebelliousness to it would have help A LOT!


  1. Lori, I totally get the freaking out in an MRI experience. I have a disc deteriorating in my back. In Seattle the Dr. wanted to get a look. I did not think it would be a big deal. They asked me if I was clausterphobic (sp?) and I told them no. I did not think I was at the time. It was supposed to be an hour and a half. I thought I would take a nap. They laid me down, locked my head and shoulders into some vice and then started to insert me into the machine. About 5 minutes into it I started seeing visions of collapsed tunnels and started to scream to get me out. Full blown panic attack. They pulled me out of the machine and told me to not feel bad at all. They said they had basketball players (at the time the Seattle Sonics were still in the city and apparently a couple had the same experience). It is the WORST feeling. I am proud of you that you were able to do it!

  2. This sounds incredibly traumatizing/stresseful - even more so if you experience panic attacks already. Thanks for having the energy/courage to share your experience for others who are in your situation. Best wishes to you on your journey.

  3. I have had two MRI but face down and over that hump looks not very comfortable!! Hang in there!!! :)

  4. I had a Pet Scan and had to lie on my back with my arms above my head crossed at the wrists. I felt like I was laying there for hours and my arm sockets were killing me to the point that I just wanted to cry it out! The machine was SO loud and they did not allow music in 2004. I agree, PINK would have been a huge help! Now that's a girl who knows how to kick a little...XXX! Hang in there girlie! We're all here for you!

  5. Sounds awful, thanks for sharing, and yeah agree Pink would have been way better.


HELLO....I appreciate you reading about me and my experience with BRCA1 and "everyday life". Thank you for taking the time to comment in the positive (but if you want to be negative I invite you to go read someone else's blog).