Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

So, I’ve talked in another blog about survival strategies for various medical procedures.  But what is it like to have an MRI…to lay on the table as the lights go down?  Hear the industrial noises cranking up? To feel the deep vibrations as you’re about to blast off into the tube?

There’s a lot of technical info ‘out there.’  But I’ll share some of the more visceral aspects from my perspective. Of-course everybody is different and will have their own experience.

My brain has been examined A LOT in various MRI machines around LA, Denver and Colorado Springs. After 20 or so of these things I can tell you that:

  • Lying flat on your back you get passed into long, narrow tube (called “bore”, there’s some serious multi-faceted irony in that name…I mean bore, really?)
  • I try not to touch the sides, supposedly the intense vibrations can burn you but that has not happened to me
  • The process usually lasts 30 minutes
  • There’s an an injection of contrast half way through that tastes like I’m sipping pennies from my favorite gas can or sucking on an exhaust pipe (ah..high school…kidding)
    • The injection feels warm ‘inside the privates’ and causes me to want to make pee-pee in my pants every time

The MRIs sounds are extremely loud (like “this one goes to 11” loud) so make I always make an effort to get those ear plugs they give me actually in my ears. I have a hard time with that but fortunately can rely on extensive waxy buildup. Not sure about average decibel level but the time I went to the Megadeth concert and stood next to speaker, with Mustaine killing it, is probably comparable.

For whatever reason, the barrage of sound in MRI invariably reminds me of whales mating. There’s a good deal of banging too (wait, “banging” is perhaps a poor choice of words after that last statement) as if somebody’s pounding (again another poor word choice) a hammer on a metal wall…so I don’t know maybe the sound is like whales mating while working on the construction of their undersea chateau with nice views of the Great Barrier Reef…

Then again, maybe the whale vocalizations could just be an exchange of pleasantries:

“So, what’s new Shamu?”
“Not much Hump, how you?”

However, plain old cetacean (whale) ‘ha ya doins’ are not quite as stimulating in weird, twisted way as imagining the sound of other, um, stuff. Oh well, whatever it takes to make that 30 minutes feel like 30 rather than 300 I guess…

Notes on MRI:

MRIs are pretty much The Standard. In other words the docs aren’t going to prescribe x-rays, stethoscopes, penlights, Polaroids, new IPhone apps etc when checking the head.

MRIs employ superconducting magnets that produce fields from 0.5-tesla to 2.0-tesla, or 5,000 to 20,000 gauss (that’s nerd talk for like a serious tractor beam from the Death Star…um that’s more nerd talk from like a nerd).

Considering the Earth’s magnetic field measures 0.5 gauss, um, you’re probably not going to pop an MRI mag on you fridge to hold down the grocery list or picture of kids.

Here is a list of some items I try to leave at home before entering the MRI room: metal office chairs, certain types of dental work (eg my grill), some heavy metal tattoos (heavy metal man!), older model pace makers (cuz you know I have one for each day of the week), wire bras (not mine I swear man)  and wigs with framing (also not mine, really), bayonets, forks, post-hole diggers, samurai swords, throwing stars, muscle cars and Sherman tanks (okay, don’t own one but want one)…