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mri experience, v 2.0

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:02pm
It was a lot better than last time. Maybe it was a newer machine.

This time, the focus was my neck, aka "cervical spine." I have weird neurological symptoms -- numbness and tingling in my neck, a dull ache along my right arm, sometimes my entire right side, and these have been going on for some time now. Dr. O, my ENT, recommended a rehab doctor look at this months ago. What finally got me to go was Dr. C, my TMD doctor, saying the same thing. I confessed to Dr. C that I didn't want to go for an MRI because the last one freaked me out. He told me that was OK, they could give me a prescription for something that would help me relax, and I would get through it fine. The main thing is to get it looked at now while the symptoms are mild, before they get worse and/or become permanent.

My tendency is to do just the opposite -- wait until it gets bad enough to have someone look at it. I feel at least half the time that I'm a hypochondriac, always running to the doctor with mild, slightly annoying problems. It gets expensive, and since I'm pretty much OK, what's the point? What are the odds that this problem is going to get worse? What are the odds that it's going to go away on its own? I wish I could assess those two questions more accurately. Anyway, the neck thing does seem to be getting worse and so I finally made the doctor's appointment, and of course he did send me for the MRI. Given my impending departure for the summer, we're moving quickly on this.

So: the cervical spine MRI. There's no question of going in feet-first, they're looking at the neck. My head was in a little U-shaped form, and then soft foam wedges were put in place by my ears. It was very comfortable, actually, and the wedges by my ears really helped keep the noise down. (Or perhaps it was a newer, quieter machine than last time.) I closed my eyes even before the tech slid me into the tube, so I didn't see a thing. I felt like I was being tucked in for a nap. I had a cushion under my knees and smaller ones for arm rests, and a nice blanket. It would have been restful if not for the noise.

There were 5 or 6 passes, each one longer than the next. The first few were very short, the last 3 were 3.5, 4, and 6 minutes long. During the passes, the noise wasn't loud enough to make me jump but I was surprised by the vibrations of the table. I didn't remember that from last time.

Before the 6-minute pass, the tech asked me if I wanted her to pause in the middle, and I told her no, let's just get it over with -- that was a mistake. Six minutes without swallowing is basically impossible. I had a brief moment of panic near the end of the pass, but I mustn't have moved the parts that counted -- I definitely fluttered my hands a bit, and took several deep breaths. My mouth felt very dry throughout this process, but I still felt like I needed to swallow, which I didn't want to do because I was afraid it would move my jaw.

I had a prescription for Ativan but I didn't fill it -- I need to be awake and alert today, no time to sleep it off. I guess I managed OK but I won't really know until the report comes back. I looked at the films and other than identifying a few basic structures (it's kind of cool, you can see a little of my brain in some of them), I can't see anything. In some of the cross-sections you can see marked differences between the right side of my neck and the left side, due to all my surgeries. The side views are pretty cool, you can see all the vertebrae and everything. I hope that the scan shows nothing wrong with the spine itself -- muscle problems are so much easier to deal with.

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