Tag Archive | what happens during an MRI

Tips to Survive MRI Breast Scan From Someone Who Knows


It’s hard enough to have questionable health issues, but to endure testing to find out the results is an added necessary burden.  Have you ever had an MRI?  You can have them for all different health problems.  I have endured MRI’s for brain and breast scans, neither of which are fun.  But then, no test is fun, there I said it.  I feel for you.  I’ve been there.  I don’t know what’s harder, the test itself, the wait time for the answer or the dealing with whatever the result is.

But below are a few tips that may help you or a loved one in case you need an MRI, in no particular order:

You can’t have any metal on you when you are in the MRI machine.  Watches must come off because they will be stopped by the machine.  You can probably keep your gold jewelry on, but the technician may tell you to take it all off and put it in your locker where your clothes are because you’ve changed into that fashionable hospital gown.  You know the one, right?  Lucky for us, they will probably give you two like they gave me.  First one opens in the front, second opens in the back so there’s no peek-a-boo affect!  Oh-la-la!

Go to the bathroom right before you have the procedure.  Remember how your Mom told to you to go pee-pee before you left the house?  Well, you will be in the MRI machine, not able to move for a bit so better to try to go again before you get strapped down for at least 30 minutes.  Because, it’s so uncomfortable to have to resist the urge to stop an MRI because you need to go.  You know how it is, if you need to go and you are strapped into a loud cranky machine and aren’t allowed to move, your mind will fill up with thoughts of the bathroom and it will be hard to stay calm and not move.  And you can’t just get up, run to the potty and finish the test.  Nope, you have to stay there, from start to finish in the same position.

When they put you in the machine, you will be asked to NOT MOVE for the entire time.  So make sure you are as comfortable as humanly possible before the professional leaves the room.  I’ve had MRI’s where I had to be in a certain position that was very uncomfortable in order to have the test.  Sometimes you just have to be in that position no matter what, but occasionally, you can have the position adjusted BEFORE the test begins.  The key here is BEFORE because you can’t change position once it starts.  It never hurts to ask.

Make sure they give you earplugs ~ the machine clanks LOUDLY and you are in a tube which makes the sound reverberate.  Earplugs don’t seem to help, but it’s even worse when you don’t have them.  Years ago, they didn’t give you earplugs and it felt deafening to be in the machine.

TELL the professional if you are a claustrophobic.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!  Some tests will allow a relaxing medicine (prescription from your doctor before you go to the MRI) to be taken 30 minutes prior to help with the phobia and there are cases in which you can request an OPEN MRI which would help immensely if you are indeed claustrophobic.

For the breast scans, I have gone by myself before and since I know what to expect, it’s not as bad.  Ok, it’s not great either.  Breast scans have the patient laying face down (like the photo above) so you can see nothing except the sheet that covers the platform on which you are laying.  Your arms are above your head so that the radiologist can see your breasts.  I will tell you that for me, it is terribly uncomfortable to have my right side that way.  In fact, my back muscles went into spasm once and I called to the technician.  She came in and helped me to reposition myself and made sure I was still in position for the best possible test results, but I was able to have my arm oustretched to get into the machine and then under her supervision, was able to bend my arm against the machine so that it was comfortable once I was fully in the machine.  It made a world of difference for me.

The object here to get the test done in the shortest amount of time with the best results while you are as comfortable as possible.  To get all 3 pieces is a huge win-win.  Your technician is a big help in this because they want you to have a good experience and they need to get the job done. 

Working together is key here.

You are not alone in the MRI machine.  You have a ball in your hand to squeeze in case you need help and your technician (who is in the next room) will respond.  There is also an audio whereby you can hear the technician tell you what to expect  ~ test for 8 minutes, the contrast is now starting, etc. and you can respond verbally as well.

You can have an MRI with and without contrast.  Without getting too technical, with contrast means that you will have an IV inserted before you go into the MRI machine room.  Once you are settled into position in the machine, the technician will connect your IV to the contrast for use later as the first set of MRI images will be without the contrast.

My advice is to drink water before you go to the test and to drink water afterwards to flush your system of the contrast.  Drinking water before hydrates you (hence take the potty break right before) and allows your veins to be nice and plump so that the IV is inserted quickly, easily and pretty painlessly.  If you don’t hydrate, then it’s harder to find a good vein, the prick hurts more and veins can get blown, which means you have to get stuck again in a different vein.  That, my friends, is never fun and I’ve had a ton of experience with that piece.

When the technician tells you the contrast is coming, you will feel it in your veins.  You may have felt something already, a little bit of cold fluid which is the saline solution to make sure that all flows properly.  You will know the contrast is entering your veins because you will taste a metallic ink in your mouth and may even feel a warmth in your body.  You may even feel like you’ve (ahem) peed yourself (for lack of a better term), but don’t worry.  It’s simply the sensation because remember, you’ve already gone potty before you got into the machine.  Once the contrast is delivered, the machine will clank again as it repeats the same imaging as before, only this time with the contrast in your body.

So what do you do while you are waiting for the whole episode to be over?  It’s loud in the machine and time for me, feels like it stops completely.  I have tried to sing songs to myself ~ made up rap songs to the rat-a-tat-tat of the clanking machine ~ I’ve tried to find a mantra to say along with the rhythmic clanging ~ I can do this…I am healthy…All is well…God please be with me…etc.  I have tried to pray the rosary even, but as my mind has a hard time focusing I only almost prayed 2 mysteries.  But perhaps you’ll find something to do to make the time go by easier.

I have had techs who have been diligent in telling me, “Ok, this test is for 8 minutes…now this one is for 10” and so on…and I have had others whom I thought had left the building as I hardly ever heard from them so I guess it’s just the luck of the draw.  My favorite line from any of them has always been, “Ok, the test is over.  Stay still, I’m coming in,” as I drew a huge sigh of relief that it was over.

I’ve been woozy afterwards with all of the fears now over, the test now over and I am now having to stand up after being face down for 45 minutes.  Take your time.  If you feel light-headed, TELL the professional as if you faint, the EMS come and it’s a big deal.  If you can take your time and simply stay calmer, it helps.  I know that those of us who are fainters (yup, me too) don’t always have any notice that they are going down, but if you do, please tell them.  Believe me, you don’t want the EMS there because you fainted because the test was finally over.  You want to do a happy dance that it’s over and get out of there!

I hope you found a tidbit or two to help you through ~ I have been there, done that, so if you have any questions or want to share your experience below, please do!  I am here for you if you need a friend.  I understand ~ here’s my hand, hold on.  We’ll get you through this together!

Shine On!


P.S.  Thanks to my sweet readers who shared their experiences below and gently reminded me about the contrast sensation.  You rock Rhonda and Cordelia’s Mom. ♥



A Note to the Medical Community ~ Kindness Counts

36296_Thank you for your kindness.

Kindness counts in all ways, in all situations, in every step, in every moment of human contact.  My post today was written last night in my head as I tried to see the situation from both sides and found the other side lacking.  Yesterday I had some tests done ~ MRI and MRA which if you’ve ever endured these tests you’ll understand that they can be difficult for someone who is a bit claustrophobic like me.  I have endured these tests many times in the past so I know what I am up against and I know myself.  So I explained it to the technicians before we started so that they would be aware and hopefully be helpful.

With MRI/MRA’s, you are in a machine which feels like what I would imagine what being in a coffin feels like.  The patient is put into the machine on a stretcher and not allowed to move while the machine does its job of scanning the body parts needed for the tests.  In my case yesterday, my head was put into a cage-like helmet which did not allow my head to move.  I was in the machine, not moving for over 45 minutes while the machine clonked and whirred loudly, taking pictures for the tests needed.  The technicians who were in the other room occasionally spoke kindly to me, making sure that I was ok for which I was truly grateful.  Sometimes it’s the littlest thing which makes the biggest difference.  Hearing a friendly voice when there’s a break in the test helped me immensely.

45 minutes later, the stretcher was slid out from the machine (I was still not able to move) and I was to be given an IV of contrast fluids which helps with the test.  Unfortunately the technicians blew my first vein (I only have my left hand to work with so this was a major bummer), then with the next injection which was by my wrist, she accidentally blew that vein too, but not before she injected the contrast under my skin (which by the way burns intensely).  By this time, my composure was gone and I was openly crying, still trying desperately not to move my head which was still harnessed in the helmet cage.  I asked the other technician to please talk to me because I was having a hard time keeping myself in check.  I asked her about her unusual name and tried to make small talk with her so that I could keep myself calm.  But it didn’t work.  The technicians then decided to get a ‘professional’ in and the 3rd time was the charm.  The technician who wasn’t able to inject the contrast properly then moved to right side and although I couldn’t really see her, I asked her to please hold my hand.  I was beginning to shake all over and I needed some type of human calming contact to center me.  She complied and nicely held my hand as the contrast was finally injected properly into my vein and I was quickly whisked back into the machine.

But then there was silence.  The machines whirred around my head, clanging as they do and there was silence on the other end.  No more kind words, no countdown letting me know that this test would be 7 minutes long or that there was only 15 more minutes.  Nothing.  Dead silence.

I struggled to keep myself still, tears still leaking out of my eyes.  Do you know that when you cry and you are flat on your back, your tears drip into your ears?  It’s true.

Finally I heard them open the door and the stretcher was slid out.  I asked them to please take out the IV that was hurting my hand, but they informed me that it wasn’t there.  My brain couldn’t understand why I had this horrible pain and burning sensation in my hand.  They uncovered my face, took off the blanket that covered my body and helped me up to the sitting position all in a very formal, efficient manner.  I was handed my glasses and even though I felt faint, I was told that the test was over and I could leave.

The unusually named technician stood waiting expectantly at the door for me to hop off the stretcher and leave.  Struggling through tears, I asked for a tissue and then I felt like a bad child lagging behind a pestered parent as I was escorted from the room.  I was shaking, teary and sad.  I am not a wimp by any means.  I have endured this test before and I truly didn’t ask for anything more than kindness.

But I will tell you that it was lacking.  I wanted to call this post Robotic Humans as that’s how I felt about the technicians who were with me yesterday.  I tried to figure out last night what I could have done to have them act so coldly.  Is it that I asked for kindness and human contact?  Is it that they are just so robotic that they can’t feel others’ pain?  Or have they become so numb in their jobs that their humanness eludes them?

I have had other MRIs in this same facility all with no problems whatsoever.  In fact, the technicians in the past were always very kind to me and I am very appreciative when treated with respect and warmth.  I’m not asking for you to bend over backwards for me, but when you see me heaving crying because my hand burns because YOU made a mistake, please have the decency to say you are sorry.  To accept that you made a mistake and at least pretend that you care for a moment.

My hand was so swollen last night that I couldn’t put my watch nor my wedding rings back on and even this morning, the swelling is such that I can’t wear them.  That is not right.

So to all the technicians out there, please ~ be kind to your patients.  We are trying to do what you ask of us and we want the tests to go as planned.  But a little human kindness goes a long way.

I won’t return to this facility and I am hoping that I receive a notice asking what I thought of it because I would gladly name names and explain the situation.  I feel as if the facility needs to hear from the patient what it feels like to be in our positions.  I think they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be human.

Thanks for reading ~ I apologize today for griping, but I think it serves as an example of how much Kindness Counts!

Be kind to all with whom you have contact today!

Kindness costs nothing, but is a priceless gift to the receiver.

Shine On!


(FYI:  Sometimes you can be prescribed a Valium to help with the anxiety associated with the test.  Make sure you ask your doctor if you need one.  Unfortunately for me, due to the nature of the test, I was not allowed to take anything.  Also, there are OPEN MRI tests as well which put the stretcher in a dome instead of a smaller coffin-like capsule.  Also make sure you get the earplugs!   Truly though, I hope you never have to endure this test!)