MRI is a widely used diagnostic test that provides detailed images of soft tissues in the body… from brain tissue to cartilage in large joints. The good news about undergoing an MRI is that you won’t be exposed to the potentially harmful radiation of other diagnostic procedures like computed tomography (CT) scans or x-rays. MRIs use magnets and radio waves… which makes using them not only safe, but also allows for three-dimensional re-creations of anatomic structures that are superior to CT scans and x-rays.
Undergoing an MRI however, can bring on anxiety… you are basically enveloped in a machine, in a specific position… unable to see the opening. The procedure typically takes from 15 to 45 minutes, but sometimes longer. While you are in the machine, there are periods where you need to lie perfectly still, and may be asked to hold your breath for a few moments. The scanner’s shifting magnets produce loud knocking and tapping sounds. It can feel highly confining, and may bring on claustrophobic feelings. While the procedure may feel uncomfortable, it is very safe. Approximately 30 million MRIs are performed in the U.S. each year. Knowing what to expect can help you feel better prepared, and hopefully less anxious.
There are some strategies you can use, if you are feeling nervous about undergoing one: Let your doctor know ahead of time, so he or she can discuss your concerns. You may be given a mild sedative to take before the test begins. Check to see if the facility allows a relative or friend to stay with you during the procedure. Ask for earplugs to lessen the noise. You can also ask your doctor to order an open MRI. An open MRI is unobstructed on three sides, and your head is often positioned outside the system.
Drugs called contrast agents are often given intravenously to make it easier to distinguish abnormalities from healthy tissue. Nausea, headache or hives are the most frequent side effects. Usually, they are mild, and last for only 10 to 15 minutes. Less than 3% of patients experience such side effects…..Johns Hopkins Medicine July 2012
The following are references from our recent blogs on New Daily Persistent Headache:
Rozen TD. New daily persistent headache: Clinical perspective. Headache. 2011;51:641-649.
Evans RW. New daily persistent headache. Headache. 2012;52;S1:40-44.
Wintrich S, Rothner D. New daily persistent headache – follow up and outcome in children and adolescents. Headache. 2012;50:s23.