I hope you are all well and are having a great start to the week! Yesterday I went to the hospital to have a thoracic spine MRI scan as a few weeks prior to that I was diagnosed with spinal scoliosis which is a condition that causes the spine to curve to the side. It can affect any part of the spine, but the most common regions are the chest area (thoracic scoliosis) which is what I have and the lower section of the back (lumbar scoliosis.) I have had problems with my back since I was young but I only recently discovered that this was the cause of my problems. I thought I would do a quick bonus blog post this week and share with you my experience and things you should know before having an MRI if any of you have an appointment for a scan or may need one in the future which hopefully none of you will! Before I start, I would just like to say that I am basing this post on my own personal experience so you may have experienced/ will experience it slightly different to me depending on the type of scan etc but as far as I know, all MRI scans follow the same concept and are performed the same.
Things to know before hand:
- Try to avoid/wear as little makeup as possible
Before my scan I was told not to wear makeup, especially eye makeup and not to wear any type of hair spray products as they have tiny metal particles that could interfere with the scan and reduce the quality of the images. I tried my best to go that day makeup free apart from lightly filling in my brows so if you’d prefer not to totally not wear makeup, I’d recommend maybe filling in your brows and wearing a bit of concealer or a minimalist look to avoid being told to remove it.
- Don’t wear any metal objects
I know this is an obvious one but make sure you’re not wearing any metal objects e.g jewellery or anything like shoes with metal on as the MRI scan is essentially a huge magnet! I know I found this difficult as things like my jeans had metal buttons and zips so I’d opt for a comfy pair of leggings if you own a pair but if not, once you arrive they will provide a gown for you to get changed in to. For items like your handbag and mobile phone, they provide a locker for you to keep your items in while you are having the scan, a bit like at the swimming baths!
- The size of the machine
Before I had the MRI, I didn’t really know what to expect regarding the size of the machine. I’m not claustrophobic so the size wasn’t really an issue for me as although I felt as though the tunnel was close to my face, it is open at both ends and there is still some room. You are also given a button to hold that you can press at any time in the scan if you are feeling like you want the scan to stop so don’t worry if you are claustrophobic. The doctors/nurses also keep in contact with you and are watching you the whole time throughout the scan. I could actually see them in the other room through the window straight ahead of you which was nice to see that people where there the whole time.
- You don’t have to go in alone
You can take one friend/family member or who ever you would like to sit in the scanning room while you have your scan as long as they also don’t wear any metal objects so don’t worry, you don’t have to be alone!
- How long the scan takes
This can vary depending on what type of scan you are having but the average time is 20-40 minutes.
- What position you lie in
This was something that I was worried about as I was having one on my spine I thought I would have to lie on my front but it turned out that the scanner can still scan your back if you are lying normally on your back.
- How to remain calm and relaxed
Although I wasn’t too nervous about having the scan, I did feel conscious of the fact that you’re not allowed to move during the scan and you have to stay still. Thankfully my scan only took 15-20 minutes but the best thing to do is to not think about the fact that you have to stay still because if you keep on thinking about it, the likely hood is you will want to move more! I got told that the less you move, the quicker the scan. You are also provided with headphones so the sound of the machine isn’t as loud and there is also a radio playing in the background. The nurses also make sure you are in a comfortable position and offered me a cushion for my legs so it didn’t cause any pain in my back. I actually found it helpful to focus on the different noises that the machine was making to take my mind of things.
- How loud is the machine
I had my MRI in a relatively new machine which made different noises every so often which where quite loud but not as loud as I expected. You also have headphones on so it isn’t as loud.
My overall experience:
To start off, my appointment was in the evening so the hospital was very quiet which although was a bit strange, it meant that I got seen to straight away which was a bonus. One of the nurses greeted me and showed me to the lockers where I put my coat, mobile etc in and gave the key to the nurse as the key is obviously metal which you aren’t allowed. They then asked me a few questions about my height, weight and other heath questions and showed me to the room. The nurses were so kind and reassuring and although you won’t have the same nurses as me, don’t worry because they are all experienced. They then told me what position to lie in, made sure I was comfortable and strapped me in. In my case, as I was having one of my spine, I had to wear a head mask/cage which I’m not going to lie was a bit daunting at first as you can imagine but it had a mirror attached so some how I could see everyone so I didn’t feel too closed in as I could still see in front of me. I went in head first so the whole of my body was in the machine apart from a bit of my legs and my feet but even then I could still see out the other side. If you are just having a scan of your leg, foot etc you will only have to go in to that point, not all the way in. The nurse left the room and started the scan which first started as quite a loud noise which every now and then changed to a different, quieter sound almost like beeping and banging at the same time. Just imagine you are having building work done to your house, that sort of thing. Like I said earlier, the scan took for me 15-20 minutes which honestly seemed to fly by, I didn’t really feel like I was in there for that long! Every few minutes during my scan the nurses moved me so sometimes they would slowly move me in the scanner a bit more or out a bit more depending on what part needed to be photographed via computer. Before I knew it, one of the nurses voices came through the headphones telling me that they were just checking the images which were fine and I was out, whoop whoop! After now having had an MRI I can happily say that I would have one again without worrying!
Thank you so much for reading as always and I hope you found this post helpful, even if you aren’t having an MRI scan but maybe some one you know is having one! Let me know in the comments if you have had an MRI scan or are going to have one though as I’d love to hear your experience! Also, if you have any questions about anything said in this post, any questions you would like answering that I haven’t mentioned or anything about spinal scoliosis please don’t hesitate to ask!
Much Love, Amelia xx