Being told you need a scan on your brain is usually pretty damn scary, whichever way you look at it. The actual experience sounds unpleasant and the fact that doctors have decided they need to have a look for a problem in your brain is even worse.
Before my diagnosis, when I was told I needed an MRI doing, I was actually relieved. I was desperate to find out what was wrong with me. Why was I in pain? I didn’t care what showed up on the MRI, as long as it meant I finally had an answer. I guess I was in the rare position of being excited for my scan. I pestered for an appointment and I took a last minute cancellation at a nearby private hospital, which, thankfully, my partner could take me to the very next day. I only had time for a quick search in a few forums for a bit of advice.
I’m aware that everyone’s circumstances are different and all scans will be different, but I’ve complied a small list of top tips to maybe give anyone a bit of help preparing for a brain MRI..
Be prepared for everything to be a bit of a tight squeeze. The machine that does a scan is quite small and fits just around your head. If you’re having a full body scan, it looks more like the MRIs on the telly. If you’re having just your brain scanned, the machine fits only your head.. which makes sense, but this isn’t something I considered before I read it on a forum! The room which held the machine for my first scan was also pretty tight, it had room for the machinery, two members of staff and my shoes.. and nothing else! It was absolutely tiny. For the second MRI I had a couple of years later, I had much more room.
Don’t wear any clothes with any metal fastenings or zips. You can’t have any metal near the machines, as it’s very magnetic. I wore leggings, socks (I took my trainers off before I sat on the machine), a bralet and a plain tshirt. You can’t wear jeans with a zip or hoodies with metal fastenings, so be mindful of your clothes on scan day. You also want to be completely comfortable, because you have to lie very still.
Take out all your piercings.. and remember to put them back in afterwards before they heal over! I went with no earrings and I took my belly bar out just before I went into the hospital, putting it straight back in after I’d come out. Some piercings can heal up pretty quickly, especially nose and surface piercings.
The machine is very loud. I was given little ‘marshmallows’ for my ears – little earplugs that you squish into your ears that expand a bit, to protect your ears from the noise. I don’t normally wear earphones to listen to music or anything, as I had some ear problems when I was younger, but they couldn’t offer headphones for my first MRI (over the ears) as there wasn’t enough room in the machine – eek! I much preferred my second more roomy MRI!
Close your eyes as soon as you lie down and keep them closed until a member of staff tells you it’s all over. This was the best tip I read online before attending my MRI. I didn’t want to see the machine close around me and it would definitely make anyone feel claustrophobic to open their eyes mid-scan! I closed my eyes as soon as I lay down and I told the gentleman putting me into the machine to shake me when I was allowed to open them again, when the scan had completely finished and I was okay to sit up.
The scan takes around 20 minutes for just your brain to be looked at, but honestly felt so fast. I felt like I was spinning a bit at first, but as soon as I relaxed, I just lay still and did a bit of thinking and the time flew by! When my spine was scanned too, this took around 40 minutes, but it could be longer depending on your requirements.
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