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Old Yesterday, 11:56 AM
95 posts, read 78,596 times
Reputation: 174



I went to have my first MRI done on Monday morning, two days ago, but, as the title says, as soon as they slid me in to the MRI machine, I almost immediately felt really hot and cramped and had trouble breathing properly, because of the lack of air circulation, I assume, and I had a wave of anxiety and panic wash over me and I asked to be pulled out of the machine within 10 or 15 seconds, if not, less than that. The thought of staying in there for 25 or 30 minutes was inconceivable, because of how uncomfortable and unnerving it was just being in the tube for 10 or 15 seconds.

I was honestly shocked, because I had not ever experienced anything like that. I would have to think that it was legitimate claustrophobia, because of how intense and frightening the feeling was.

Apparently, this was in the smaller 60 cm size bore/tube and they rescheduled me for an appointment on Friday morning in the larger 70 cm size tube. I looked online and that increase is apparently from 24 inches to 28 inches in size, which does not seem to be that big a difference, to me. I'm hoping that I am wrong about this and that the difference in size is significantly noticeable and will allow me to stay in there for the required 25 to 30 minutes or so, because I really need to get the MRI done. I have had bothersome pains in my legs for several years now and I am hoping that an MRI would give some helpful information about what I can do to try to get fix the problem and get rid of the pain.

I have long thought that the cause of this pain and discomfort was likely a pinched nerve, restless leg syndrome or neuropathy, but someone recently mentioned to me that it could be a sciatic nerve problem and the way they described it definitely made me think that sciatica was very likely what is causing the burning pain in my right leg every day and that is significantly affecting my ability to sleep and my quality of life throughout each day.

So, I wanted to ask, will I likely be much more comfortable and feel less-confined/stuffy in the larger 70 cm size MRI tube? Or, as I suspect/worry, is the difference in size not that drastically different? Will I still likely feel cramped and hot and panicky in the 70 cm tube? Can anyone speak to a similar experience and having tried both size tubes?

For the record, I am a male, 44 years-old and I am about 5'10'' and around 195 lbs., to give an idea of my size.

Also, I do have some muscle relaxers (Methocarbamol 500MG tablets) and some anti-anxiety meds (Alprazolam 0.25MG tablets) that I forgot to bring with me last time, but I don't know that it would even be safe to take them, because I will have a long drive home after the MRI appointment, approximately 80 miles, and I don't want to be really drowsy right after my appointment. Not to mention, my appointment is at 7:00 a.m. in the morning and I will be going there about 3-4 hours after I get off work, being that I work late-nights.

If anyone is familiar with these two medications, would they likely help with the discomfort, panic and anxiety that I felt in the MRI machine? I could always take them and then try to sleep in my car for a couple hours afterward, but I don't know how practical that will be. Especially, considering that I will still have to drive 80 miles home and then make the same drive to go back to work later that same night, because I commute to an area that's only about 15 minutes away from the location, and I have to worry about getting sleep. Yes, nothing about my situation is simple or convenient, so this is a really stressful matter to try to deal with.

Sorry for the long post, by the way. Basically, has anyone been in both the 60 cm and 70 cm tube MRI machines? And if so, was the size difference significant and noticeable? Or did you feel cramped in both of them?

Also, while doing some Google searching, I did see that there is apparently something called an 'open' MRI machine, but I'm not sure exactly how open it is. However, I do think it would probably be much more likely to be a comfortable experience. I just don't know that I would be able to get a referral from my doctor for an open MRI machine, as I'm not sure why he would not have suggested that in the first place? Has anyone here had a lower back scan in an open MRI machine? If so, is it open and comfortable, like I assume it is? Or are there still some problems with feeling cramped, stuffy, uncomfortable and anxious?

And to clarify, my doctor apparently ordered the scan on my lower back area, as he think that's where the pinched nerve might be, even though, the pain I experienced that is most bothersome is running down my right leg, from my upper hip down to my ankle and foot area. It literally feels like there is a burning fluid running through my veins sometimes and it makes falling asleep damn near impossible most days. There are days where I will literally lay in bed for 4 or 5 hours snd not be able to fall asleep, because I have to keep moving my legs around every couple minutes or even every few seconds, and I have to keep trying to stretch my feet and legs and pop my knee and pop my ankles, because the burning sensation and pain and irritation are so bothersome.

And in case somebody is knowledgeable about sciatica, having read my description of the burning pain I feel in my right leg (I do have pain in both legs, but the burning sensation is only in my right leg), does sciatica seem like a likely cause of it? Or did I maybe damage some ligaments, or a muscle, or a nerve, or a tendon in my right leg or knee area? And would a lower back scan in an MRI machine likely be able to get an answer to this question? Or might I possibly/likely need to get an MRI scan of my hip and knee area?

And one more thing that I want to ask, if I'm not able to go through with the MRI, even in the larger 70 cm machine, are there any other ways to get a simple x-ray, or a different type of scan that does not require going in to an MRI-like machine, that can get the information needed to see if it is a sciatic nerve problem? Basically, is there an alternative to an MRI scan to look for a sciatic nerve problem?

And if it is a sciatic nerve problem, or a pinched nerve, how exactly would they fix it? Is surgery the only option? Or are there some methods I could do, by just assuming that I do have a sciatic nerve or a pinched nerve, and hope that it fixes itself that way? Or would I specifically need the MRI scan and then have to do something that I couldn't do by just exercising or stretching or some sort of physical therapy?

Basically, would it be safe to just assume that I have a sciatic nerve problem, in case I'm not able to go through with the MRI scan, and go ahead and do whatever it is that they would want me to do, if they were able to confirm that it was a sciatic nerve problem? Or, would that be irresponsible and dangerous and possibly cause more damage to my body?

I apologize for writing so much, but this has been weighing on me for the past couple days and I'm not sure what to do. Part of the reason that I want to ask about this is because I may just end up canceling my appointment for Friday morning, and I would like to cancel it in advance with enough time for them to try to schedule someone else for the appointment, and I would probably need to do that today. So, if it does not seem like I would likely be able to feel totally comfortable in the larger 70 cm MRI tube, based on feedback that I might get from people on here, I would probably go ahead and call them today and cancel my appointment.

If anyone has actually read my entire post and would like to reply and offer some helpful feedback or potentially helpful information, ideas or suggestions, I would genuinely appreciate it.
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Old Yesterday, 01:57 PM
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
9,356 posts, read 5,788,018 times
Reputation: 34533
Do you really need to drive home after the MRI, meaning do you have pets that need care? Assuming a place to sleep that is not your car, couldn’t you just bring a change of clothes and save yourself the 160 mile round trip?

Before my first MRI, I decided I was going to keep my eyes closed the entire time. It works for me. Space is infinite behind closed lids. Sometimes I drift off to sleep.
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Old Yesterday, 03:17 PM
Location: on the wind
9,072 posts, read 3,984,390 times
Reputation: 30794
No one here should be trying to diagnose you OP. Many of these questions are for your doctor, not a bunch of internet strangers who are not in your specific situation. All we can give you are anecdotes. An MRI can tell everyone a lot...and can rule out a lot of possibilities which is a good thing. Look at the benefits, not the cost. Part of the problem is that you are psyching yourself up over it; setting yourself up for more anxiety. If this was me and I felt the need to medicate myself in order to deal with this test I'd plan to drive to an inexpensive local hotel, park, take a cab to the test, cab back to the hotel, and sleep it off a while. Better yet, what about arranging with a coworker to take you to the appointment? You could drive to your workplace and park there, get rides to and from, then sleep a bit at your workplace afterward. You said they are closer by. There are short acting anti-anxiety meds out there. Many folks say the more open format MRIs make a huge difference. The techs have usually offered earphones to me. Either they have music available or you bring your own...they supply compatible earphones.

Guess I'm lucky. Tests like this don't bother me at all. I'm kind of a bio-nerd and find the whole thing really interesting.

Last edited by Parnassia; Yesterday at 03:30 PM..
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Old Yesterday, 04:48 PM
Location: Texas
4,208 posts, read 3,589,401 times
Reputation: 7631
OP, as Parnassia mentions above, nobody here can diagnose you, but we can address some of your questions.

First off, know there are a lot of people who experience anxiety with an MRI or CT, even people who don't generally consider themselves to be claustrophobic, so you are in good company. We've had several threads about it on here.

The two most important aspects of an MRI machine itself are the bore and the signal strength. Generally speaking, the smaller the bore (hole in the middle), the better the images. I believe a traditional closed bore MRI is 60 cm. A wide bore MRI is 70 cm. While a wide bore gives up something in quality of image, it improves patient comfort for folks like yourself. At the opposite end of the spectrum are "Open" MRI's that one usually finds at freestanding MRI centers. They'll suggest they provide high quality images, but the truth is that they really don't. If I were you, I would avoid them. The signal strength of the magnet is measured in Tesla or "T". The higher the signal strength, the better the image. The workhorses among MRI machines are usually 1.5T or 3.0T. The 3T is twice as strong and yields better images. They now have 4T MRI's that yield even better images still, but are much louder. I had an MRI of my lumbar spine last year with a 4T and it was somewhat loud, but it didn't bother me that much, in fact, I found the humming kind of mesmerizing.

You are really limiting the ability of the doctor to accurately diagnose and help you without an MRI. An X-Ray is not going to yield the info they need. They should not be put in the position of making assumptions about what it might be and coming up with a treatment plan. You're doing yourself a disservice. Moreover, you're probably not going to be able to move forward with any therapies until you have a diagnosis.

As to the second part of your question, your sciatica could/might/maybe be caused by a compressed nerve and could be the source of the pain you have that radiates down your leg (radiculopathy). I had that last year. Turns out it was a compressed nerve root at L5S1. And the only way they could diagnose that? An MRI. See where I'm going with this? If you have a compressed nerve root, there are a number of things you can try from watchful waiting to see if it goes away; PT doing stretches and core strengthening; pain medication and anti inflammatories; epidural spinal injections, alternative therapies like chiropractic and acupuncture and yes, if necessary, surgery. Incidentally, I ended up having surgery (which I'm very glad I had), but not before trying all the other things first for 8 months.

Good luck.

Last edited by Texas Ag 93; Yesterday at 05:00 PM..
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Old Yesterday, 06:34 PM
1,852 posts, read 616,768 times
Reputation: 5034
Have your doctor prescribe Xanax and take it a hour in advance.
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Old Yesterday, 07:54 PM
10,445 posts, read 6,876,033 times
Reputation: 19758
Too many words in OP

Ask doc for Xanax and cover your eyes with a wash cloth
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Old Yesterday, 08:11 PM
Location: The Bubble, Florida
292 posts, read 52,679 times
Reputation: 858
Originally Posted by mike1003 View Post
Too many words in OP

Ask doc for Xanax and cover your eyes with a wash cloth
Basically this. Also if they don't offer you a headset or ear plugs, ask for it. The clanging is what always gets me anxious.
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Old Yesterday, 08:53 PM
4,539 posts, read 4,103,849 times
Reputation: 12943
Originally Posted by Teacher Terry View Post
Have your doctor prescribe Xanax and take it a hour in advance.
I have tried so many times to up vote you, Teacher Terry, but the program won't let me. Anyway, he's right. Just take Xanax (shortest acting benzo) about 30 minutes before the procedure. Drive there early, take the pill, and 30 min after you've taken it, you'll be fine.

No, you will probably not have an easier time with the slightly larger MRI. Claustrophobia is claustrophobia, doesn't matter if the tube is slightly larger. BTW, the open MRI pictures aren't as good. So just take the Xanax. You'll sleep through it.
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Old Yesterday, 09:46 PM
6,452 posts, read 2,649,691 times
Reputation: 6873
It's mind over matter. I've been in industrial boilers the size of small houses, in the firebox looking at the barrel of a burner with 3 nozzles each capable of spewing 2 gallons of kerosene a minute and if lit incinerating me in seconds.
I've been in other situations and the way you do it is with will power and knowing what is going on. An MRI is just a tube with a huge magnets that spin around. You're inserted in that tube on a trolly. You're not going to die. Control yourself.
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Old Yesterday, 09:54 PM
285 posts, read 64,787 times
Reputation: 468
I can completely relate. I had to have an MRI done on my knee and I didn't expect I would be wheeled in up to my neck. For my knee! I was freaking out immediately, too. As others have suggested, ask for headphones/ear phones and have them play music for you (they'll play whatever music you choose, I chose Rock). This does help. Just concentrate on the music. Sing it to yourself in your head. Just to pass the time more quickly.

Tell yourself - "This isn't fun, but I need to be adult about this and get this done. Okay, I am half way done now, I can do this!.... Just a few more minutes and I'll be done!"

I will say that a CT Scan is SO easy. Quick, no tube to go IN to. I would have CT scans all day long over an MRI. But, you'd have to ask your doctor if he is okay with you doing that or not.

I feel for you, OP. I feel the same way about MRIs. But, you have to be mature about this and just get it done. You want to know what's going on with your pain, right? Then you'll just have to be brave and go do this.
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