“You need an MRI.” No-one likes to hear those words. For many patients the thought of an MRI can be extremely frightening; for those with claustrophobia, the idea is even more disturbing. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), however, while not necessarily pleasant, is not painful. Here is everything you need to know about having an MRI.
Every year, more than 30 million MRI scans are conducted and of those 22% (6.6 million) are head scans. An MRI scan typically lasts between half an hour and two hours and will require you to lie very still. An MRI scan essentially takes a series of pictures, each lasting about 15 minutes. There are generally two to six series of pictures per scan. Such scans can be used to create 3D images to be viewed at different angles.
Some radiology centers do have access to scanners that can cut down on the claustrophobia. These open scanners work in a way that is like a normal MRI machine, but the benefit is that it is open on three sides. This openness can reduce anxiety and help patients better cope with head scans.
In cases when a doctor needs images of a limb such as a knee, foot, arm, elbow or wrist, an extremity MRI may be used. An extremity MRI is a special scanner that is specifically designed to provide images of such limbs. Such an extremity MRI would be scheduled if a doctor feels a mass in a limb during an examination, sees something abnormal in an x-ray or bone, if there is redness, pain or swelling in a leg or of an ankle joint, or in a number of other circumstances.
MRI radiology centers will issue detailed instructions to anyone scheduled for an MRI, indicating the requirements for preparation. This means that you should not eat for two or more hours before the scan. There are no other special precautions necessary. If you are pregnant, especially if you are in the first trimester, in most cases an MRI scan will not be scheduled. If absolutely necessary, though, one can be performed.
While an MRI might not be procedure that anyone wants to have done, understanding what happens, how it works and what is required of you can help you through it; open MRI scanners can also play a significant role in reducing stress and helping claustrophobic patients cope.