Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Open vs. Closed MRI's...

 A few weeks ago I began experiencing some pain behind my left ear which traveled up the rear of my skull to both sides. Although my head "ached," it wasn't like any "headache" I'd ever had. Coincidentally, I also had a single brief dizzy spell. Very unusual for me, so I checked in with my primary care physician who ordered me to undergo an MRI of my upper spine.

I've had several MRI's in my life. Several on my abdomen due to a benign tumor on my adrenal gland a few years ago and another one on my left knee that revealed a torn meniscus that will be repaired surgically in January. Not once have I found the procedure to be stressful in the least. Not at all. The radiology techs at our local hospital are very friendly, knowledgeable and efficient.

I arrived that morning for my neck scan really focused on the rest of my day. I had two performances scheduled in the afternoon and evening, plus other errands to run. I left all my metal items (watch, cell phone, belt, etc.) in a secured locker, waltzed into the MRI room, hopped up on the table and was all ready to go. They positioned me opposite the way I'd usually been oriented. Usually, I went in feet first. that day, it was going to be head first. No biggie I thought. So what? Let's do this, eh? The tech put a cervical collar on me and asked if I was ready to go in. I said "sure."

As I was being slid headfirst into the long, very narrow tube, there was a very sudden, very brief negotiation within myself. Entirely foreign to me, as well. I'd never in my life had a feeling of claustrophobia. Ever.

Until then, that is...

The tube was so tight, I couldn't move my head, shoulders or arms. I couldn't see anything except the top of the tube. It was like somebody flipped a switch and I felt enormously uncomfortable and the anxiety was intensifying quickly. I told myself, "cool with it." To which the rest of my brain replied with a hearty "Oh yeah? I don't THINK so..."

I was just dumbfounded as I squeezed the buzzer device in my hand and said, "Uh, I'm really sorry, this isn't going to work for me, get me out please..." I couldn't believe it. No way, not me. I felt embarrassed, frustrated and foolish all at once. I apologized profusely to everyone on the team for wasting their time and quickly gathered my belongings and left.

As I walked to my car, one thought ran over and over in my head. "Where the fuck did that come from?" I couldn't believe what had just happened. I tried to figure out what had caused it. A) I'd had no breakfast that morning. B) I'd just started a new painkiller the day prior that I already wasn't wild about as it too increased my anxiety. The combination of A & B seemed to me to explain much of what had just happened. Still, I couldn't convince myself that even without A & B I would've been ok. The negotiation was over awfully fast while I was in the tube. I mean fast...

By day's end, I'd discovered a different kind of MRI experience that is tailor made for people who don't like small spaces and several other types of patients, especially very large patients. Its called an "open MRI" and you can see a picture of it below:

As you can see, the sides of the device are totally open. This makes all the difference, trust me. The top of the tube is still very close to your face, but its not as bad. The tech at the open MRI I used a few days after my original experience also suggested putting a wash cloth over my eyes as I was slid into the chamber. I left it on my face and over my eyes during the 45 scan. It wasn't fun by any means, but it was manageable. There were still waves of anxiety but they were very minor compared to the previous experience with a traditional "closed" MRI.

From what I understand the images are both very good no matter which machine you utilize. The open MRI takes a bit longer to capture the necessary images but not dramatically so. A 30 minute "closed MRI" winds up being about a 45 minute "open MRI" session.

Tomorrow I'm back at the MRI Center for another scan, this time of my brain. I suspect that I will be mildly uncomfortable but get through it just fine. I had no idea these open MRI's even existed, but I'm awfully glad they do.

UPDATE: The brain scan this morning was "no big deal." Since I knew what to expect, my stress level was fine and the anxiety really never kicked in at all.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe you just had a panic attack then because your head got put in first. It’s not something to be really embarrassed about, trust me. :] It’s a good thing you discovered about the open type of MRI though. Either way, I think what’s important is that the procedure was done as you needed it.