Boring MRIs Are a Good Thing
Last week, I ventured to the local MRI center for my annual pilgrimage to get scans done to monitor my multiple sclerosis. I’ve lost track of how many MRIs I’ve had over the past 20 years, but it’s a lot. The results have become so routine in recent years that I almost feel like I would be shocked if the MRI report actually said something new and interesting.
Boring is desirable with MS
Under normal circumstances, new and interesting are exciting words. But with MS, new and interesting aren’t always good things. With MS, boring is desirable. Boring for me means no new lesions. Boring means that it’s been a very long time since my last significant relapse. Boring means that my MRI scans have been stable for many years. Boring is awesome!
If I think about it hard enough, I could share a few new or interesting things that happened during this year’s MRI experience.
New procedure this year: Masks
Everybody was wearing a mask. I wore a mask. The person checking everybody’s temperatures at the door wore a mask. The receptionist wore a mask. The MRI technicians wore masks. Masks were everywhere.
Wearing a mask during my scan
I even had to wear a mask during the scan. Well...actually that isn’t entirely true. I could have opted to place a folded piece of sheet-like fabric over my face to serve as a mask if that felt more comfortable to me. I had a choice: mask or several layers of sheet. But I had chosen a comfortable fabric mask of my own to wear to the appointment and was satisfied with it.
I opted to wear my own mask. Since I appreciate the sensation of gentle air that blows on your face during the MRI exam, I didn’t want to miss out on that breezy sensation that helps you to feel less confined in a closed space. Even though I always remove my contacts for MRI scans and can’t see a darn thing without them or my glasses, I didn’t want to be covered in anything I couldn’t see through.
Process improvement: Faster exam procedures
Another different procedure during this year’s MRI scans compared to previous years was the way the technician kept things moving along more quickly. First, he inserted an IV line in my arm before I even entered the MRI room so that there would be easier access during the exam to inject the contrast agent. MRI rooms are often cold and finding a vein to inject when your body is cold can be difficult. This did help to speed things up during the exam.
Second, the technician opted not to tell me how long each sequence would last. Fortunately, he informed me ahead of time that he would not be doing this. I guess I didn’t realize that, in order to tell the patient how long the next sequence would take, the technician has to repeatedly stop and start the MRI procedure. Eliminating this step really did speed things up and cut at least 15 to 20 minutes off the entire time I was in the MRI machine. I just had to be careful to know when it would be safe to get a good swallow in without messing up the MRI with body motion.
Reverting to “old school” ear protection
The MRI center updated some of their equipment last year when they relocated to a new building. As a result, the newer 3T machines have the capability of playing music through foam earphones. I gave this a try when it was first offered but the result was a disaster. The earphones hardly blocked the loud sounds of the MRI machine and the selection of “classical” music left me more frustrated than relaxed.
It didn’t take long before I squeezed the rubber emergency-help-communication bulb and asked the MRI technician to please take away the earphones and give me the old foam earplugs. I actually stopped the MRI in progress which is something I had never considered doing. After the switch, I was able to “listen” to the music in my head once again and we had to start over.
This year I wasn’t even given the offer of earphones or music. Part of that might have been related to COVID-19 equipment restrictions. Or, I wonder if part of it relates to a general dislike among patients of the inadequate ability of the earphones to block the knock-knock-knock buzz-buzz-buzz clank-clank-clank of the MRI machine. I didn’t mind because I would have asked for the foam earplugs anyway.
Unremarkable is a good thing
I realize how fortunate I am to be in a place with my MS that the most interesting part of my recent MRI exam involve tiny changes in procedure. The images showed the same, old hazy spots in my cervical spine while the brain was as unremarkable as ever as confirmed by the radiology report.
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