Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cardiac 101: How To Cheat On An MRI Test

If you’re claustrophobic like me, then getting Magnetic Resonance Imaging done requires some lengthy second thoughts. I’m lucky in that I am only moderately claustrophobic. As long as there’s light and I can see my way out and I know I can get out I can usually get through it.

I had a cardiac MRI a few months ago. I asked many times just how enclosed I’d be and let it be known about my confined spaces issues. I was assured I’d be okay and it was even suggested that I could be sedated if need be.
I decided I’d be okay. I really wanted one and not just because it was a good diagnostic tool. I was curious as to what all the fuss was about.

The subdued lighting in the room was more than adequate for me. The MRI tube itself is very well-lit, enough that you could easily read in it if you were able to move your arms.
The tube is open at both ends so I could crane my neck back enough to see outside. It helped keep my breathing natural. I was only in part way, too, and my legs from the thighs down were outside the tube.

I was strapped down to a very hard board with some sort of plate over my chest. My arms were held in place by the straps that held said plate securely to my chest.

Bad idea.

I can’t have my arms restricted because it makes me panic. I asked and they were freed.

The test took an hour and the images are viewed as taken. This is good because I had to cheat a bit to get through it. You have to hold your breath as the images are shot. That’s fine. I had to hold my breath for as little as nine seconds to as much as 19 for my test. That’s not so bad for holding one’s breath.

Except they don’t tell you until you’re strapped down and slid up the tube that it’s on the exhale. Take a deep breath then empty your lungs and keep them empty until you’re told otherwise. You must also remain stock-still. The techs are very reassuring and tell you to do the best you can. My guess is the lousier you do the longer it’ll take.

Nine seconds is okay, but even as much as two seconds longer is a long time to go on empty lungs. I was told each time how long I’d have to not breathe so I counted along to keep my mind occupied. No matter how deeply I concentrated fighting for air is a natural response and I had to let some in once.
I got away with it, but I knew there had to be a better way. Hmm, I wondered… what if I leave a bit of air in my lungs?

So I did. I left enough to get me through yet exhaled enough for the images to be okay.
I’m glad I though to do this. If you ever find yourself in an MRI machine I say leave a bit of air in your lungs. That’s not medical advice and I am not a doctor. It’s something I learned from experience that worked for me and it might work for you too.
If it doesn’t, and you’ve left too much air, the techs will tell you.


Hilary said...

Good thinking, Leah.

I feel your panic over MRIs. I had one done a few years ago (to check for damage to my shoulder) and seriously considered just living with the pain rather than go through with the possible diagnosis. It was a very long, loud and nervous twenty minutes. I opted for no sedation because I tend to fight medication and I knew I'd just keep rousing through the test and have to deal with it in a groggy state.

Anyway, I'm glad yours went well enough (as did mine). They ain't fun when you don't like small spaces.

Leah J.Utas said...

Thanks, Hilary.
I'm glad your test went well and I can certainly understand your thinking prior to it. Sheer curiosity is what gave me the incentive to consent.

the Bag Lady said...

The Bag Lady already suffers from exam anxiety. And claustrophobia. She hopes she never has to have an MRI, thankyouverymuch!
Glad both of yours went well!

Leah J.Utas said...

I hope that too, df Bag Lady.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Leah,

I have never had an MRI but have heard they are long and uncomfortable. Thanks for this explanation. Now i won't be afraid if I ever have to have one.


Leah J.Utas said...

df Terrie - I'm glad I could put you at ease.

Frank Baron said...

I'm claustrophobic too and got nervous just reading this.

Remind me to never see a doctor again.

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting post, and it sounds like you handled things very well. I've never had an MRI, but I do tend to be claustrophobic.

You gave good advice which I will remember, should I find myself in an MRI tube one of these days! :)

Reb said...

Good post Leah, if I ever find myself needing an MRI (oh, I hope not), I will keep in mind your advise. I am like you, as long as I can see something other than the tube mere inches away from my nose and am not strapped down, I think I would be able to handle it.

Leah J.Utas said...

Frank, I understand.

Thomma Lyn, I hope you never have to have one of these.

Reb, you've had your share of test.

Dawn said...

Sounds scary. I don't think I would enjoy the experience at all. Glad you got through it.

Leah J.Utas said...

Thanks Dawn. In fairness, my imaginings were worse than the reality.