Having to visit an imaging center for your first MRI is not anyone’s idea of a fun afternoon. An MRI is a diagnostic imaging test that shows your brain and spine in detail. Your doctor may be able to diagnose conditions like a pinched nerve, bone spurs on your spine and lesions on your brain through the use of an MRI scan.
Either your physician’s office or the imaging center will contact your insurance carrier to get pre-approval for the MRI procedure. This can take several days, but definitely check in with your doctor if you haven’t heard anything after a week. I had to call my doctor’s office several times before I was given the green light to schedule the procedure.
As with most medical appointments, plan to arrive at least fifteen to twenty minutes early to the MRI imaging center. You’ll need to fill out endless paperwork beforehand. Don’t forget your insurance card and a valid payment method, because you will most likely have to pay a portion of the MRI cost up front, depending on your insurance plan.
Once you finally get called back, the technician will ask you to change into scrubs. The reason for this, is if you have any metal within your clothing (i.e. metal button on your jeans, or metal on your bra clasps), it will interfere with the magnetic resonance imaging. At the facility I had my MRI done at, I was given a locker to place my clothing and purse in, and the locker was secured with a key.
You will then be led into the imaging room. I wear glasses normally, and had to remove them, since they had metal hinges. This made me a little disoriented, so you may opt to wear contacts the day of your procedure if being able to see clearly at all times is a concern. You will be given ear plugs to help minimize the noise the machine generates when it is taking pictures of your body. You then lay down on a metal gurney, and are rolled into the MRI machine.
Because the confines of the machines are so close to the edges of your body, you may feel a little nervous or claustrophobic. I was in pain at the time my procedure was done, and had to do some deep breathing to get through the 10 to 15 minutes the actual scan took to avoid tensing up. In all honesty, it felt like I was trapped in a coffin.
Once the machine starts taking pictures, you can still hear the loud noise and feel the vibrations the machine is putting out, but the ear plugs help. I was a little scared, and kept trying to think about things other than what was going on. The technicians check in with you to make sure that you are doing okay, so even though you feel like you’re the last person on earth, you’re really not.
It is important to remain calm and still during the MRI, so that accurate pictures can be taken. You don’t want to have to go through the experience twice, or have to pay another chunk of cash because you moved, causing unclear images to be captured. Once the machine has worked its magic, you are whisked out of it, and can finally draw a full breath.
It took five business days for the results of my MRI to reach my doctor. Unfortunately, it did not give a definitive cause for the pain I was experiencing, only verified that my muscles were having spasms. Once the MRI has been read, you may request a paper copy of the results and/or the actual images on a DVD from the facility that performed the procedure.
Even though the actual MRI procedure is painless, it can cause some mental distress. Just remember to keep as calm and relaxed as possible, and it will be over in no time. You may want to plan something fun after the procedure, like having lunch with a friend or going to see a movie, so you can focus on that while you’re getting the scan performed.