Archive for October, 2014

October 29, 2014

Donuts, Bagels, Claustrophobia and MRIs

1024px-Plain-BagelFor people with severe claustrophobia, MRIs can be intimidating. Even people who are only mildly claustrophobic may find MRI exams stressful – but they don’t have to!

 

The best imaging technologists and radiologists will always work with patients to provide feelings of safety and comfort during MRI procedures.

 

The first step in managing stress and claustrophobia comes in arming yourself with information. Information on how long the exam will take and how you will be positioned in the magnet can help prepare you.

 

Here are a few tips and tricks for the time you may find yourself in a donut-shaped machine:

 

  1. For many with mild claustrophobia, two things will help the most: covering your eyes and practicing visualization exercises. While this may sound “new age”, these sorts of mental exercises have been shown to get people through their MRIs. The best thing is to concentrate on breathing and on visualizing in your mind a calm, open space – one you find restful. Get that picture in your mind – a beach, a meadow, a mountain slope – someplace wide open. Get the smells and sounds in your mind as well. Keep coming back to it – it will work! This in conjunction with talking with the technologist throughout the study will get you through the test in no time.
  2. Because MRIs are loud, ear protection is provided. Some clinics offer music as well, which can be calming.
  3. If the above isn’t working, consider asking for a procedure done on an open bore magnet – the latest in technology is a more open cylinder design, still with a high field strength magnet (our Olathe clinic has such a machine!). True open MRI units may be an option as well, but those may be lower strength magnets and imaging times can be longer!
  4. If claustrophobia is still an issue, you may need to seek some help from your doctor or the radiologist. Some doctors who refer patients with claustrophobia for an MRI will write for a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, like valium, to be taken prior to imaging. At some facilities, your radiologist will be able to provide medication, often Xanax, but make sure this is discussed with the facility beforehand as it may mean changes in how your prepare for the study, and it will require you to have someone available to drive you – no machine operating after these types of anti-anxiety meds!

 

Armed with this knowledge and the help of caring technologists and staff, you can survive the MRI experience. And with medical imaging comes the ability to diagnose and get you on the road to your best possible health!

Plain Bagel by Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!

 

October 9, 2014

MRI: Not If You’re the Tin Man

Tin Woodman by William Wallace Denslow via Wikimedia Commons Copyright Public DomainWhat are the risks of an MRI?

The main risks of MRI come from the fact that the machine is made up of a giant magnet – which is never turned off.

 

Safety for MRI studies relies on removing any metal on your body and fully understanding the impact of any metal within your body. Many types of metal implants, like joint replacements, are not a problem and patients with them can safely undergo MRI.

 

Some battery operated implants, like most pacemakers and many neurostimulators, can be adversely affected when exposed to the magnet. The safety of any implanted surgical device or metal should be thoroughly discussed before the exam – preferably at the time of scheduling.

 

On the day of the procedure, removing all metal (all hairpins included!) prior to entering the MRI suite is important for the safety of you, the technologist and the machine. No metal in clothing, no metal in pockets, no watches or phones!

 

The other main risk of MRI comes from those studies that require the injection of IV contrast. This allows us to evaluate blood vessels and the vascularity of organs and masses. This contrast contains gadolinium which is a heavy metal. Allergies or reactions can occur, although rarely. Gadolinium contrast materials should be used with caution in those at risk for kidney disease. You will be screened for the possibility of kidney disease, and your kidney function may be evaluated with a simple blood test before we give you the contrast if you have risk factors.

 

MRI is an amazing technology but requires strict safety precautions for everyone. We’ll be writing more about MRIs and the claustrophobic patient in our next post – stay tuned!

(Image credit: Tin Woodman by William Wallace Denslow via Wikimedia Commons Copyright Public Domain)

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!

 

October 6, 2014

MRI: It’s a Magnet!

Magnet by AJ Cann via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)Radiology can be confusing. How these exams work can confuse the smartest people. As radiologists, we get lots of questions. Which exams use radiation and which do not?  How safe is the exam?

 

Today we will attempt to answer some of your questions and concerns about magnetic resonance imaging or MRI.

 

MRI – how do we make images?

MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, is one way of viewing the body that uses NO radiation (a plus!). We can create amazing images of all parts of the body with… a magnet! MRI machines are loud, clunky-sounding machines made up of a giant magnet. The noise comes from the second part of the name – resonance, or radiofrequency waves. This combined with computers creates images of the body. And, oh, the things we can learn about you with this technology.

 

The MRI Experience

Having an MRI involves being positioned on a table and moved inside the MRI unit. The inside of the MRI is called the bore and is basically a long tube the size of which varies. We center the body part being evaluated within the bore.  Bore sizes and configurations vary depending on the magnet strength and configuration of the MRI unit.

 

“Open MRI” units have a more open environment for imaging.  They are often used for the claustrophobic patient or larger patients.  The open MRI units can have limitations of longer exam times and lower quality of images. This is because the signal created and used to make the images is directly related to the magnet strength – which is lower for some open magnets.

 

High field magnets or traditional MRI trump an open magnet when we want imaging speed and precision, so it’s highly encouraged when at all possible. It can be done! There are many ways we can help our patients be comfortable while getting the highest possible quality images.

 

Over the next few days we’ll talk more about MRI safety as well as limiting patient discomfort in the machine.

 

In the mean time, cheers to your best possible health!

(Image credit: Magnet by AJ Cann via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0))

Diagnostic Imaging Centers blogs on regularly about women’s health at www.mammographykc.com and general radiology at www.diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com. Visit our sites for more helpful information!