Examination by MRI: the Longest 12 Minutes

by Kirk McConnell

When 12 Minutes Seems Like an Eternity.


So, I’ve been experiencing some mobility issues lately.   I see a pain management doctor for chronic pain issues and  I walk and take the bus.   Walking is very important to me—not just for health, but being able to go places and to see things.

I don’t usually talk about this too much but I may have a cyst  on some nerves and a lot of pain in my back.  I’ve been getting epidural shots  to help with the pain, and I usually have to go through a series of three injections spread out by one injection every two weeks. Then, I’m good for six months to a year. Recently, the back pain has gotten worse because I’m probably pushing myself too much when I walk.   I have to walk because my cardiologist wants me to walk 3 to 3 1/2 miles a day. So, I am between a rock and a hard place.

My doctor wanted me to have an MRI to determine whether or not the cyst has grown or if the nerves are pinching. If the nerves are pinching, I have to go see a neurosurgeon to see about removal.

He scheduled me for an MRI for the L4 and L5 vertebrae in my lower back.   An MRI  produces images that doctors can use for diagnosing problems.  It is administered in a tube like chamber that is essentially a magnet,  is noisy and can take as long as 12  to 90 minutes. 

Being encapsulated inside this machine and not being able to move is very uncomfortable.  The technicians on duty ask many question but most of my responses were “no”.  I was thankful the technicians let me keep my T-shirt on and my drawers. My feet get cold easily so I asked if I could also keep my socks on. But, beyond that, I only had on a smock.

I’ve had one or two before and I’m usually pretty good about making it through the experience.   However, about six minutes into my MRI, I started to feel anxious and sensed a mild panic attack due to claustrophobia. I was fortunate that I remembered to do my breathing exercises that I have learned to slow my breathing down and I close my eyes. The technician gave me earplugs to use so that I don’t have to listen to all of the harsh pulsating sounds. I try to imagine the pulsating sounds as music but it it was more like really bad Dub Step.

About eight minutes in,  I started to feel twitching in my right leg. And I was worried that it would mess up the MRI. So, I worked very hard mentally to keep my leg still. I get involuntary twitching in my right leg, probably a direct result of the cyst on my nerves.

In the last minute to two minutes of the MRI being entirely encapsulated, I could feel the circulation leaving my arms because I was compressed. And I got through it. I was a little worried about having an anxiety attack, and I was thankful that my asthma hasn’t been bothering me lately.

The technicians took care of me, and I survived the experience. I was mostly concerned that I would have a claustrophobic episode, but I didn’t. Praise God. It’s not an experience that you would want to have very often.

Twelve minutes can seem like a very long time. When you go to have an MRI, you  have to mentally prepare yourself. If you don’t, the consequences could be problematic. On a positive note before being shifted into the chamber, they gave me a bulb to hold onto to squeeze if I needed. Luckily, I did not need to do it but came very close to squeezing the bulb.

These are just some of the things you should be aware of when you have to go for a medical procedure like having an MRI. The process is quick, although it seems very lengthy.  It’s a mental game. You just have to breathe. You have to think about something positive and close your eyes, and remain very still. I hope this information will help somebody with their future experience.


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