Considered to be one of the most revolutionary advances in medical technology, magnetic resonance imaging has helped doctors save the lives of thousands of patients over the years. Commonly referred to as an MRI, this scan can be used for examining joints and diagnosing arthritis, detecting problems with a patient’s brain or heart, or even for finding cancerous tumors that have developed on kidneys or elsewhere in the body. If your doctor has scheduled you for an MRI, here’s what you can expect.
No Special Preparation is Needed
With most patients, no special preparation is needed prior to their scan. Thus, this means you can usually eat a normal breakfast, take medication, and go about your normal routine prior to your appointment. If any special preparation is needed, your doctor will let you know well in advance of your scan. That being said, if light or sounds tend to make you sick to your stomach, you may consider decreasing how much you eat prior to your visit as well as stick with food that is easy on your stomachs such as toast, applesauce, bananas or rice. There are other foods, of course, that are light and easy on your stomach but this should give you a basic idea of what to look for when considering what to eat. Additionally, consider what you are drinking. You want to be hydrated so that you feel your best and you may benefit from light carbonation from drinks like Ginger Ale.
You’ll Hear Sounds
During your MRI scan, you’ll hear plenty of sounds coming from the MRI machine. These usually include thumping, tapping, and knocking sounds. While you may initially be a bit unnerved, these sounds are a perfectly normal part of the machine’s operation. During your scan, many facilities provide patients with headphones, allowing them to listen to music during the procedure. Some facilities let you bring your own headphones so consider asking your doctor ahead of time so you can bring a pair of sound-canceling headphones, if possible. Depending on the way you are lying down, and what you are getting scanned, they may not let you use sound-canceling headphones as they may need to talk to you while you are getting scanned. For this reason, it is ideal to communicate with the doctor to get as much information as you can so you can be prepared.
Lie Still and Hold Your Breath
Once you are inside the MRI machine, the technicians will instruct you to lie still while the machine scans your body. Depending on what areas of your body the scan is focusing on, technicians may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds here and there. While having to hold your breath may annoy you a bit, you won’t have to do it for very long, so just try to lie back and relax. Some people get anxious while in an MRI machine and hyperventilate. To prevent this, consider breathing out more than you breathe in to help prevent any issues. That being said, most MRI technicians have experience and training to help you through that so communicate with them if you are nervous and ask them to walk you through breathing and provide you information if you need it. It is challenging as a technician to provide the care and help you need if you don’t communicate what it is that you need so be open with them about any reservations or stress you may be having from it.
You Maybe Injected with Dye
When doctors need to perform a contrast scan, you may be injected with a dye before your MRI begins. Known as gadolinium, the injection is usually done via IV in your arm. During the scan, the dye is easier to see with the machine, helping technicians and doctors obtain a much better look at certain parts of your body being scanned. During the dye injection, you may experience side effects such as a metallic taste in your mouth, minor headache, itching, or perhaps some nausea. It is ok to share your experience with the technician so if you taste metallic in your mouth, it’s ok to tell them. Sometimes they will respond and let you know that it is perfectly normal and some other technicians may tell you how long to expect the symptom. However, these side effects usually last only a few minutes and rarely result in complications.
After the Scans
If the MRI scan is the only reason for your visit, then you will likely be out of the office only a few minutes after the scan is complete. Depending on the situation, you may have a follow-up appointment for when the doctor will go over the results or they may just call you with the results. If the doctor asks you to come in for the results, it doesn’t mean that they found anything concerning. It can simply be that the complexity of the test is more beneficial for you to be in-person to review the results. Since an MRI provides imagery, it can be easier for your doctor to share the results by actually showing you the results compared to explaining them over the phone.
By knowing what you can expect before you go in for your magnetic resonance imaging scan, you can be much more relaxed during the procedure and know it will help doctors get to the bottom of your health concerns.