My wife recently had cause to have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging examination (MRI) of the head, which resulted in the detection and successful removal of a non-cancerous meningioma and I was amazed at how this testing works and how detailed it can be.
Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scanning).
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and uses magnetism instead of x-rays to build a detailed picture of your head. My wife advised that it is in no way painful and the only discomfort is in the fact that you will be asked to lie very still for what will appear to you to be a long period of time, anywhere between 25 and 45 minutes.
What appears to make some people apprehensive is:
a) A feeling of confinement or claustrophobia.
b) Normally you will be in the room all alone.
c) The noises from the equipment i.e. a succession of clicks and bangs.
d) Drinking a small amount of contrast material or taking an injection intravenously.
None of these matters need to be a worry as long as you know about them before hand: The MRI unit is positioned pretty close to your body, you will be alone when the unit is active or everyone would have to abide by the strict restrictions connected with the MRI unit. The noises only appear loud because you are alone and they are not scary and the contrast allows the radiologist to have a clearer, more defined image.
Like everything else – we fear the unknown. You are not really alone during the Magnetic Resonance Imaging examination because your progress will be monitored by a technician throughout the examination and they will be able to hear and see you. There is also a two way intercom and therefore if you speak you can attract attention.
Do’s and Don’ts for MRI Examinations
1) DO ask if you are ok to follow your regular eating and drinking routine prior to the exam – this is usually the case, however, a hangover is not recommended.
2) DO advise the radiologist if you have allergies. if contrast material is to be administered they will wnt to know.
3) DO advise the radiologist if you are pregnant or suspect you may be.
4) DO take with you your own favourite CD or you may find yourself listening to something so boring it makes the time go even slower. Hint: Rock and Roll or Saturday Night Fever is not conducive to remaining as still as possible.
5) DO leave all jewellery at home as it interferes with the magnetic field of the MRI unit.
6) DO relax and try to stay as still as possible. The tenser you are the more difficult this is and you may end up suffering cramp and having to go through it all again.
1) DON’T put any type of hair pin or clip in your hair.
2) DON’T sneak your hearing aid in to listen to that CD I have just told you to bring along – Not allowed. Hearing aids will also interfere and are not allowed.
3) DON’T dress up because MRI examinations give you the opportunity to try out the latest creation in hospital gowns together with your best underwear. Thongs are not recommended for males or females!
4) DON’T forget to leave all removable dental work at home.
5) DON’T fidget – it will be over before you know it.
6) DON’T whine if you are a grown up – be brave – there might be a 5 year old waiting his turn outside.
It is important that you remain perfectly still while the images are being recorded, which is typically only a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. Tapping and knocking sounds will be heard when images are being recorded. You will be able to relax briefly between imaging sequences.
The benefit of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging examination is that this technique is non-invasive and does not involve any exposure to radiation. Where brain tumours are concerned the MR images are the most sensitive examination method as they are usually clearer and more detailed.