Multiple Sclerosis and My Mri

By: Jon Wegner

I guess last week was a health week for me. I went to the dentist on Wednesday the 12th. My teeth have become a wreck because I drink too much Vanilla Coke and I eat too many sweets. I must have at least 10 cavities. Then after that I drove to Fargo and had an MRI on my brain and spinal cord. I'd been having some problems the previous week relating to my multiple sclerosis. My regular neurologist moved away so I'm getting a new one. I think? So I went into the MRI machine for 1.5 hours. That's a long time to be on your back in a cylinder shaped machine with absolutely no room to move. When it's closed an MRI machine is roughly 2 feet in diameter. My elbows were touching the sides of the cylinder and my nose was only about 4 inches from the top of it. I've done MRIs before but they lasted only 20 minutes. This one was for an hour and a half.

In an MRI the patient lies inside a cylinder that contains a powerful electromagnet. Technicians start radio waves that cause hydrogen atoms in the body to release energy. The magnet maps this activity from thousands of angles and sends the information to a computer, which produces a clear, high resolution picture of the scanned area. A radiologist then interprets the picture. Because MRI can see through bone, it is especially useful for looking deep into the body. It can look beneath nerve coverings, see damage from a stroke or probe blood vessels. It can look at the heart for disease or in my case check for more plaque growth. The radiologist examining the monitor image can program the computer to show cross-section slices of the image for a closer look.

After checking in and doing the necessary paperwork you will be sent to a dressing room. You may have to change clothes but in my case I simply emptied my pockets of coin, my belt, money clip and my shoes into a locker that was locked. What you can wear during the test depends on what you are wearing when you show up. Other things that can't be worn are jewelry, watches, keys, credit cards and so on. Such objects can stop radio frequency waves from getting into the body and cause distorted images. You'll have to leave these items in the locker during the test. Certain clothing - which contains metal zippers, rivets, wires, and belt buckles - are a no-no. These will have to stay in that locker and you'll have to wear a gown. (oh goodie)! The tech asked if I wanted a gown and I said no so when I went into the machine I unzipped my pants and folded them over the zipper.

In case you've never done an MRI they are noisy. The tech told me it had something to do with coils in the machine which made no sense at all to me. He put earplugs in my ears for the noise but it was still extremely loud even with the plugs! He asked if I was claustrophobic and I said when you give me that emergency button I won't be. There's a clicker on a rope which goes into the machine with you. You can push the button on the clicker which signals the tech if you want to get out of the machine. That's in case you get claustrophobic or have to go to the bathroom or something. To tell the truth I'm a little claustrophobic but having that button to push if I got scared or had a problem made a difference for me. The tech was really nice and helped me get into a prone position for the test. My legs don't always respond to what my brain tells them to do so I needed some help. Then he pushed me into the machine and started it up.

When in the cylinder a person should stay as still as possible. In the beginning it sounded like someone was knocking on the door. This noise wasn't too bad but then the really loud knocking started. It sounded like someone was banging on a metal bucket which a shovel. I dozed off a couple of times but always woke up when that metal bucket was getting banged on. If for any reason the tech does have to pull you out then they have to start the test over from the beginning. Since I didn't want that to happen I stayed as still as I could. After about an hour the tech pulled me out because he gave me a shot of dye. I think the dye makes the pictures better but don't quote me on that.



They now make open sided MRI machines for people with claustrophobia. I guess those machines don't do as good a job so I always choose the cylinder type. When the test was done I drove the 20 miles back home and relaxed. An MRI is not that big a deal but I guess for me personally it's kind of stressful. I don't mean sitting in the cylinder but thinking about my life and my MS. Is it getting worse? What is my life going to be like in the future? All these things go through my head. For me that is the stressful part!



The next day I met with a physicians assistant and he explained my MRI to me. I didn't have anymore plaque but he said there were some areas that showed that the disease was unsettled. I don't know what that meant but I left that meeting knowing that I had secondary progressive MS. It's not getting any better which I knew before I did the MRI.



Then I went to a physical therapist in the afternoon. He asked me a lot of questions about my MS and my physicality and then he showed me how to properly walk with a walker. That may sound funny but what he showed me did make a difference. I was moving the walker first and then stepping. He said take a step and then move the walker. It just makes you move your legs instead of relying on the walker. I drove home Thursday night and I was pooped! Between the appointments and sitting in that cramped MRI for an hour and a half just did me in. I rested Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I consider sitting at my computer desk as resting. So I was doing some work but nothing too stressful.

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