Monkeys Run Ipswitch

No, those cute little primates are not in charge of the beautiful English port city. Nearly two years after a doctor first identified that there is something wrong with my achilles tendon, I’ve finally had an MRI.  In general, it was easy.  There was no complicated prep involved.  I ate and took my medication as usual.  Whether or not you need to change into a gown must depend on 1) what you’re wearing, and 2) which body part they need to access.  Referring back to my EMG experience, I decided to wear shorts so that my feet and lower legs were easily accessible.  That worked well, because the extent of my undressing was to empty my pockets then remove my shoes, wedding ring, and eye glasses.  Anyone approaching an extremely powerful magnet will understand the importance of not taking any metal into the MRI machine.

I had fewer questions about the MRI than I did with the EMG testing.  Maybe because I’d heard of MRI before, maybe because I (erroneously) assumed it would be similar to x-rays.

  • What is an MRI?
  • Does it hurt?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What will it show?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.  A very good basic explanation titled How Does MRI Work? says:

Like x-rays, MRI is based on a discovery in the physic lab:  when the nuclei of hydrogen atoms — single protons, all spinning randomly — are caught suddenly in a strong magnetic field, they tend to line up like so many compass needles.  If the protons are then hit with a short, precisely tuned burst of radio waves, they will momentarily flip around.  Then, in the process of returning to their original orientation, they resound with a brief radio signal of their own.  The intensity of this emission reflects the number of protons in a particular “slice” of matter.

It’s definitely worth clicking on the link and following the arrows around the site.  There are illustrations and some good additional information.  It’s very basic and understandable.  And while I found it pretty interesting to learn a little of the science behind MRI, it didn’t really tell me what to expect when I went for my test.

Given the great EMG information I found on YouTube last winter, I decided to look there again.  What I found were zillions of useless videos, and a couple that were pretty helpful.  Introduction to MRI was designed to put kids at ease:

Understanding MRI is for an adult audience and provides more information:

A few others I liked:

All the information that I found states that MRI is painless and safe.  I’ve talked to other people, and they all mention two things:

  • the noise
  • how hard it is to stay completely still

Somehow I had the impression that I wouldn’t feel anything.  This was not true.  If you watched the videos above, you saw the cage that they use to focus the MRI.  The technician put a cage around my left foot, and I did not feel anything unusual there throughout the entire test.  My uncaged right foot, however, had a bizarre tingling, zapping, pulsing in time to the jack-hammer sound of the MRI.  That was completely unexpected, and not something that I would look forward to repeating.  I’d rather have another EMG.  I say that not to scare anyone off of having this test done, but if I ever have to have another one, we’ll find a way to keep my extra foot out of the machine.