What it’s Like to Have a MRI Scan and CT Scan

What it’s like to have a MRI Scan and CT Scan

In the last three months I have had two MRI scans and one CT scan. I’m sure there are others who are more experienced in writing this post. But it was the post I wanted to read when I was given a referral to have an MRI. So I’m sharing my experience of what it’s like to have a MRI Scan and CT Scan, from someone who likes to be in control of their own environment.

When I was told I needed a MRI, I googled what it was like to have one. I’m not usually claustrophobic, but the MRI machine looks a bit intimidating.

I have read news stories where things have gone wrong (why do our minds always think the worst?!) and my concern has always been about fitting inside a machine, with limited space.

The thought of being rolled into a narrow hole, within a machine is not my idea of fun.

I don’t get claustrophobic unless I’m in a situation where I can’t control it.

Getting stuck in an elevator is a fear for me. It’s happened twice to me and I can’t say I’ve liked the experience.

Or getting stuck in a ride. I started to inwardly panic when the submarine ride at Disneyland stopped for 10 minutes in the dark! I’m not sure whether it was part of the attraction or something else was at play. Of course my mind went to the worst and I panicked we would be stuck on the ride and would miss our flight home.

And those cave tours where you have to belly crawl through tunnels – you won’t see my signing up to any of those anytime soon.

Yet, crawling under a house or within a roof cavity or in a ceiling duct to install plumbing never worried me. I think it’s because I knew how to get in and how to get out. I was in control and could maneuver myself through the escape route.

When you’re having an MRI, it’s controlled by the radiographer or technician behind the window.

You can’t roll to your side to crawl out. You have to lie on the bed which is raised and then rolled automatically into the MRI Scanner and you have to be still while the machine does what it needs to do to get images of your body.

You can choose to get sedated. I chose not to as I had hoped my motherhood exhaustion would allow me to sleep, uninterrupted for 45 mins.

It didn’t work.

The first time I had my MRI scan done, I was the last one for the night and assumed I would relax the moment I laid down.

I had to change into a gown, take off all my jewellery and fill in an extensive form. I had to fast for two hours prior.

I had a cannula put into my arm where contrast liquid was injected to help with visibility.

I wore ear plugs and ear phones (or ear muffs, I can’t remember!) to protect my ears from the noise. The noises are loud – like a bass sound which is constant and then it will change to a higher pitch.

I also had a washer placed over my eyes. I could hear the radiographer through the intercom and they could hear me. I was also told to hold a squeeze ball which is a call button to alert them if I wasn’t feeling well or was getting claustrophobic during the scan.

My scans went for at least an hour each.

I used essential oils to help me (lavender, rose, balance and geranium). I put them on my feet before I left home.

The moment I was rolled/wheeled into the machine, my eyes could sense the room from being bright to dark. I did start to panic, but I focused on my breathing and concentrated on singing songs in my head. I have no idea why, but Shout to The Lord came to mind and I sang that on repeat while getting my scan. I had to accommodate the tune with the rhythm of the MRI machine. That song became quite the earworm in my head.

Some MRI scans will play music. I didn’t have that with either of mine.

The second time I had my MRI scan, I knew what to expect. I was wheeled in and out a few times which concerned me but I didn’t feel the initial panic creep in like I felt with my first scan.

If you know you don’t do well in small spaces, you can ask your GP for medication to help you or the team can sedate you for an extra charge. If you enter the MRI and feel you can’t go on, squeeze the alert ball. That’s why it’s there. We don’t always know how we will react until we face the situation at the time. Even if you’re not claustrophobic, it can be quite daunting if you don’t know what to expect.

I have a friend who also has to get routine MRI scans done and she assumed she’d be fine due to being a mum and yearning for quiet time to have a nap. But this didn’t work for her either and she gets tablets from her GP to help keep her calm while she gets her scan done. There is no harm in taking what you need to get through your scan.

What It’s Like to Get a CT Scan

The CT Scan was less scary than the MRI. Nevertheless I did feel shaky when I laid on the bed and was told about the side effects of the iodine injection. My side effect was a warm bum. I always get anxious about side effects. What if I’m the random that gets a new side effect never experienced before?

What it’s like to have a MRI Scan and CT Scan
I was able to take a photo for the CT Scanner, but not the MRI as other patients were scheduled straight after me.

The CT Scan isn’t as fearsome to look at as an MRI. I’d describe it as a mini version of an MRI. Only my head needed to be in the scanner. It didn’t take as long as the MRI.

Now I wait to see my neurosurgeon mid May to compare scans and go from there.

Have you ever had an MRI or CT scan before? Got any tips to help with nerves for those that have never had one before?