MRI’ll Do Whatever You Want If You Let Me Out Of Here

On Monday night, I was supposed to have an MRI on my elbow. However, once they got me in the tube and took a series, they said that my elbow was too close to the edge of the tube and they couldn’t get a good image. So I was scheduled this morning for an “Open MRI”.

An Open MRI is a gigantic upright cylinder that looks like a Mayan ruin with a slot in the side that they slide you into like a pizza into an oven. There’s barely enough room for them to slide you into this slot – later on I discovered that I could get my good hand up to my face, but only just. But before they slid me in, they put your arm into a ring that is plugged into the device – I suspect that’s some sort of focusing magnet. The tech said “I need to open your elbow up”, and so she put me into an extremely uncomfortable position, and then put weights on my hands and arm to keep it in that position and filled the space in the ring with cushions “so you don’t move too much if you start spasming”. I should have taken the hint and left immediately.

Anyway, after they peg you down in this uncomfortable position, they said “ok, this is a 2 minute series”, and you hear some thumping and whirring noises and then some pulsating noises. Then it stops and before you can say “can I have a second?” they say “ok, this is a 2 and a half minute series” and it starts making noises again. Each series got progressively longer until the last one, but because there was no time to flex my arm in the interim my elbow was getting more and more painful, my hand was going numb, and my upper arm muscles were spasming after about the second series. Before the 4 minute one, I yelled out begging for a break, but they either don’t hear you or don’t care. By the end of it, I was crying. I tried pinching myself or biting my lip or anything to distract me from the pain in my elbow, but nothing worked. By the end of the 4.5 minute one I was ready to tell them anything they wanted to hear. By the end of the 5 minute one I was ready to swear there wasn’t anything wrong with my elbow any more, or ever if that would make them happier, so we might as well stop right now.

But it’s over now, and I might regain the use of that arm in a few hours. I hope it was worth it.

5 thoughts on “MRI’ll Do Whatever You Want If You Let Me Out Of Here”

  1. God that is so awful. I hope they get good information from it.

    And I wish they would tell people ahead of time. It’s like they think you’re still three years old and they have to trick you into submitting to something by lying to you. If they said up front, “this position we’re putting you in will probably cause spasming. But [guesswork here] because MRI time is so expensive your insurance won’t cover the downtime while we would take a break to let your pull out your arm and relax between series. So we’re doing it all at once. It will not be fun.”

  2. Oh, I’m really sorry you had such a bad experience. I had to have an MRI a few years ago when I was having severe headaches and it wasn’t fun. I think I only managed to get through it by forcing myself to stick to not opening my eyes and deciding to find the thumping interesting. I was very, very close to freaking out in the tube. I hope some good comes out of it.

  3. I can’t imagine enduring something for that long when it’s painful.

    When I had several MRI’s on my neck (previous to my spinal fusion there) they were tediously long – at one point I spent nearly 3 hours in the MRI, with some images taking upwards of 30 minutes each before they let me rest a bit.

    Thankfully I’m not claustrophobic in any sense, nor was I in any pain the way they had me situated, so other then being tediously boring, at least it was tolerable.

  4. The reason they cannot give you a break is loss of reference. Initially, a pilot scan was done. The rest of the exam is based on that pilot. If you radically moved your arm, a pilot has to be done again. The series protocol is set up on the pilot scan. Small frequency shifts are what controls the contiguous “slices”. The ring that you put your arm through is a receiving coil. It gives a cleaner image than if the scan was done in the larger body coil. It is an antenna that receives info from flipped hydrogen protons in your arm.

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