Despite the numerous amounts of medical testing I have been exposed to over the years
in my search for a diagnosis, I had yet to have an MRI.
I’m usually pretty calm about medical testing, unless of course I have to EAT or DRINK contrast – because that is an entirely different beast on its own – but I had heard so many horror stories about MRI’s over the years and I was actually a little nervous.
Although I don’t consider myself to be claustrophobic, per say, I do have a REALLY hard time sitting still. And it’s REALLY important to stay still when the machine is taking images and they usually take a lot longer than other radiological tests, like a CT scan or a simple X-ray. I was so stressed I wouldn’t be able to make it through the whole thing without messing up the exam. Given, I do have ADHD but that wasn’t necessarily driving my fear, although it does presents its own problems with not being able to move at all.
Mainly, it’s my usual course of symptoms that make lying still almost impossible at times. My joints lock up when I stay in one position for too long and when I am nauseated, forget it – there’s no way I can stay calm and immobile. If I don’t move around or am FORCED to lay down when I feel like I’m going to vomit, I panic. So, of course, I am extremely anxious as I’m changing into my sexy hospital gown and getting ready for the test, because if you remember from my last post I was quite sick with symptoms that suddenly came on during the long drive to the hospital that morning.
Not to mention, the horror stories:
I’m paranoid that I forgot some metal in my body.
I really really really don’t want it torn violently out my body by this giant, magnetic machine.
Just when I think I am good, I remember one more piercing.
Damn, that was close.
I wonder if the gadolinium cause a reaction similar to the iodine (in CT Scans)?
Please don’t let me get violently sick…
I really hate the unknown…
But I either do the test or live with the unknown forever.
So, What Is Cardiac MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a safe, noninvasive test that creates detailed pictures of your organs and tissues.
MRI uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer to create pictures of your organs and tissues. Unlike other imaging tests, MRI doesn’t use ionizing radiation or carry any risk of causing cancer.
Cardiac MRI creates both still and moving pictures of your heart and major blood vessels. Doctors use cardiac MRI to get pictures of the beating heart and to look at its structure and function. These pictures can help them decide the best way to treat people who have heart problems.
Cardiac MRI is a common test. It’s used to diagnose and assess many diseases and conditions, including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Damage caused by a heart attack
- Heart failure
- Heart valve problems
- Congenital (kon-JEN-ih-tal) heart defects (heart defects present at birth)
- Pericarditis (a condition in which the membrane, or sac, around your heart is inflamed)
- Cardiac tumors
Cardiac MRI can help explain results from other tests, such as x-rays and computed tomography.
Doctors sometimes use cardiac MRI instead of invasive procedures or tests that involve radiation (such as x-rays) or dyes containing iodine (these dyes may be harmful to people who have kidney problems).
A contrast agent, such as gadolinium, might be injected into a vein during cardiac MRI. The substance travels to the heart and highlights the heart and blood vessels on the MRI pictures. This contrast agent often is used for people who are allergic to the dyes used in CT scanning.
People who have severe kidney or liver problems may not be able to have the contrast agent. As a result, they may have a noncontrast MRI (an MRI that does not involve contrast agent).
What To Expect Before Cardiac MRI
You’ll be asked to fill out a screening form before having cardiac MRI. The form may ask whether you’ve had any previous surgeries. It also may ask whether you have any metal objects or medical devices (like a cardiac pacemaker) in your body.
Some implanted medical devices, such as man-made heart valves and coronary stents, are safe around the MRI machine, but others are not. For example, the MRI machine can:
- Cause implanted cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators to malfunction.
- Damage cochlear (inner-ear) implants. Cochlear implants are small, electronic devices that help people who are deaf or who can’t hear well understand speech and the sounds around them.
- Cause brain aneurysm (AN-u-rism) clips to move as a result of the MRI’s strong magnetic field. This can cause severe injury.
Talk to your doctor or the MRI technician if you have concerns about any implanted devices that may interfere with the MRI.
Your doctor will let you know if you shouldn’t have a cardiac MRI because of a medical device. If so, consider wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace or carrying a medical alert card that states that you shouldn’t have an MRI.
If you’re pregnant, make sure your doctor knows before you have an MRI. No harmful effects of MRI during pregnancy have been reported; however, more research on the safety of MRI during pregnancy is needed.
Your doctor or technician will tell you whether you need to change into a hospital gown for the test. Don’t bring hearing aids, credit cards, jewelry and watches, eyeglasses, pens, removable dental work, or anything that’s magnetic near the MRI machine.
Tell your doctor if being in a fairly tight or confined space causes you anxiety or fear. If so, your doctor might give you medicine to help you relax. Your doctor may ask you to fast (not eat) for 6 hours before you take this medicine on the day of the test.
What To Expect During Cardiac MRI
*For some reason, my MRI was scheduled for an hour and a half:
30-minutes blood work & prep, then 1-hour scan*
Cardiac MRI takes place in a hospital or medical imaging facility. A radiologist or other doctor who has special training in medical imaging oversees MRI testing.
Cardiac MRI usually takes 30 to 90 minutes, depending on how many pictures are needed. The test may take less time with some newer MRI machines.
The MRI machine will be located in a special room that prevents radio waves from disrupting the machine. It also prevents the MRI machine’s strong magnetic fields from disrupting other equipment.
Traditional MRI machines look like long, narrow tunnels. Newer MRI machines (called short-bore systems) are shorter, wider, and don’t completely surround you. Some newer machines are open on all sides.
Cardiac MRI is painless and harmless. You’ll lie on your back on a sliding table that goes inside the tunnel-like machine.
The MRI technician will control the machine from the next room. He or she will be able to see you through a glass window and talk to you through a speaker. Tell the technician if you have a hearing problem.
What to Look for in Results?
(All information taken From the NIH Website.)
But it honestly wasn’t that bad.
In all truth, it was one of the easiest tests I’ve had done, despite the length of time and immobility. Way better than barium swallows or having to eat disgusting, bland food with nuclear isotopes in it, that’s for sure.
Maybe it was that I was super tired from the drive or from being woke up the night before, I dunno, but I didn’t even feel the need to move at all. Plus, I got headphones to listen to the radio station of my choice… Indie Rock it is. I closed my eyes and fell into sleep. The hardest part was staying awake and focused enough to breathe when they told me to breathe a certain way. And zero nausea during injection of the contrast (no “sunburn” or an allergic reaction following either, unlike with iodine, thank god).
I did hold my breath in fear when the machine first turned on, however, but only because I was paranoid about the prospect of having missed some form of metal being left in my body. Luckily, all was good. I just hoped the results would be the same.
My anxiety was gone, realizing I was nervous for nothing – as usual.
Next on the list: Exercise Stress Test…