Tell me about getting an MRI

I’ve been having some knee trouble for the last year or so from an as-yet undetermined injury I suffered playing tennis. After a little bit of physical therapy, my doctor has given the green light for me to get an MRI.

I really don’t know much at all about getting an MRI other than that you’re supposed to lie really still and that the machines can be loud. Yes, yes, I could probably learn everything I need to know about MRIs by reading a Wikipedia page, but this will be more fun for me if I can learn about them from my Doper brethren.

So bring me your (horror?) stories of MRIth and merriment! And although I’d love to hear from people who have specifically had their knee imaged, this thread is open to all MRI experiences.

Bring it on!

I found out during an MRI on my brain and c-spine that I’m claustrophobic.

That was fun…

I had to have an MRI on my shoulder. So, they stick you on this bed which allows them to feed you into the MRI machine. There is not much space in there – it think the top of the space was about 4 inches from my eyes. They had me in there for like 20 minutes while it makes all kinds of “interesting” groans and buzzes. And yes, they are loud. So, I closed my eyes and took a nap – except the buzzes kept waking me up.

For a knee? Should be piece of cake. At least you won’t have your head shoved up a narrow tube.

Been through it twice, both knees, both had meniscus tears and both had arthroscopy (wear and tear from hockey). It is pretty loud and it thumps… thump thump thump thump thump - the entire time. They will give you big noise canceling headphones or you can wear your own and listen to music. The nurse said some people actually fall asleep. It’s over fast enough and it is completely painless. Just close your eyes and think happy thoughts.

I second that, get some headphones and music. I picked hard rock because it would almost drown out the noise of the machine (and MRIs are noisy.)

I had one a couple of years ago. They are loud but maybe not like you are thinking. I thought it was going to sound like a loud constant hum but that wasn’t it at all. It was more like banging sound from a large machine and only happens some of the time. I didn’t think it was that bad. I just pretended I was laying in bed at night trying to get some sleep but there was lots of noise outside. Irritating yes, but not painful or too terrible if you know it has to end. A full MRI takes a while though. My took about 90 minutes which is much longer than they told me. I wish they would have overestimated the time instead because the worst part was expecting it to be over soon and having it drag on and on.

I had one on my shoulder a few months back. I’m a little claustrophobic and the technician put a cloth over my eyes, which helped a lot. It was tight (yes, I need to lose a few pounds, but I was jammed in there pretty good.)

Knee should be no problem–you won’t be in the tube all the way. I have had them for my ankle and my back. Ankle was a piece o’ cake. Back, on the other hand, means being in the tube, and can be claustrophbia-inducing.

I’ve probably had a dozen over the years. Bad knees and ankles. My most recent was in one of the new open ones -you don’t have to do the whole go in the tube thing. I’m not sure how common they are, but if we’ve got one in our crappy hospital, then they must be kind of common.

On most of the go into the tube ones, I happened to have them early in the morning so I just caught up on some sleep. I found the rhythmic thump-thump-thump sleep inducing.

I had an MRI on my knee back in March. My knee has been quite a dramatic saga throughout all of 2011. But the MRI was quick and painless. I thought I’d be going whole-body into a tube, which was not at all the case. They put my lower half in a pancake like machine with stabalizers around my knee. My upper body was outside the pancake on a bed, with headphones blasting the music of my choice (classic rock). The whole thing took 35 minutes. I reviewed the results a week later with my Dr.

I had a head scan when I was younger, it wasn’t bad at all. The noise the machine makes is a lot like someone is on the outside of the tube hitting it with a large mallet every once in a while. Since I was in all the way I had a call button and a mirror right in front of my eyes that was like a little periscope. I could see the team in the booth and call them if needed.

Also, they offered me a pillow to place under my knees or back when they first got me on the bed, and I said no because I was fine at that time. 10 minutes later though, I really wanted that pillow. So take one if they offer it!

Every time I’ve had an MRI, I’ve thought “This must be where Philip Glass gets his inspiration.” To me, at least, the sound is an interesting semi-musical composition with a lot of syncopated rhythms.

I found the noise to sound a lot like the opening bars to this song (1901 by Phoenix) only without the tinkling melodic sounds.

It’s not so bad. In fact, I’d wager that having your knee done is a lot easier than having your head done. At the beginning, they told me not to swallow, so the entire time, I wanted to swallow.

You do have breaks, though. My tech would punch some buttons on the machine from another room and tell me through a speaker that “the next scan will take 30 seconds/15 seconds/2 minutes” and between those scans, I was free to move around the tiny amount that I could.

Agree with all of the above. One important thing, though: don’t take your wallet into the MRI room. It will demagnetize all of the stripes on the cards.


When you guys are talking about bringing music, does that mean having your own iPod won’t be a problem? What if I wanted to try to read?

You won’t be able to read. The closed ones don’t have that kind of room and they need you to hold very still.

No iPod. They will play music for you if you bring some on CD. (OK, some places may be able to use your iPod now, but you won’t be able to use it like normal, they’ll have to pipe it into you.)

I had an MRI on my brain about nine years ago. I imagine it might be difficult for someone with claustrophobic tendencies, but the tech was chatty and kept in contact, and I was given the option of stopping the procedure with a panic button if I got panicky - I’m not claustrophobic so that wasn’t a big deal. They have open MRI machines now, where you’re not enclosed in a tube.

Lots of metallic banging and noise, I was surprised how loud it was in there.

All in all, it was not at all unpleasant, it was interesting, I thought.

I had my wallet in the room about a month ago. No damage to the cards. The magnetic field from the MRI drops off very quickly with distance.

My most recent MRI took about 30 minutes. It was for an instability in my right knee, looking to see if I had a torn meniscus. (I don’t.) Different studies can take a different amount of time.

I’m mildly claustrophobic, but had no trouble with it. When I had my shoulder done, it was harder…because my head was in the tube.

I’ve had several MRIs, including at least one on my knee. I find it all a bit relaxing, actually. You won’t be able to read or bring your iPod into the room (but, perhaps they can plug it in at the control room). The headphones used are pneumatic. The “wires” are actually air tubes piping the sound in from distant speakers, since you can’t have any metallic objects near the MRI. You will go through a metal detector and possibly be “wanded” with a handheld detector. I think they are okay with a few small metal fasteners on clothing, but I always went wearing metal-free clothes just in case. (I’d rather not go through the trouble of changing into a gown or whatever.) No jewelry.

If it’s your knee, you’ll lay down on a movable “bed” and your knee will be positioned comfortably inside a little contraption that contains the driving/sensing coil. It’s just big enough to sort of surround your knee. The bed will then move until your knee is inside the large magnet bore.

The machine is loud and rhythmically thumpy, in a way that is more lulling than seismic. With the headphones on, it’s not so loud that you can’t hear the music.

I’ve had MRIs a ton of times and never had a problem, although some people find it a disturbingly claustrophobic experience. They can sedate you if this is an issue.

There’s a narrow bed-like panel you lie down on, and they’ll cover you up with a blanket. My only experience is with getting my head scanned, so this may be different for a knee scan, but they have a sort of U-shaped pillow that holds my head in place and then they snap a sort of frame or cage down over my head. It’s not right up against the face or anything though, the top is several inches (maybe 6"?) above my face… Then they slide me into the machine. This is where some people freak out because you’re basically inside a tube and there’s not much space, but it’s never bothered me. The tube isn’t closed off and it’s not dark inside. They will give you a squeeze ball thingy that you can use to alert the technicians if you’re having a problem.

I personally prefer not to have music, because it makes me more alert and aware of the passage of time. Without music I can kind of zone out and it doesn’t seem like it’s taking as long.

I don’t know if this is typical, but I always need my scans done both with and without contrast. They’ll put me in for a round without contrast, and then pull me out to give me the contrast solution. This used to be given as an injection in the arm, but over the past few years they’ve put an IV in at the beginning of my appointment and then give me the contrast through that. Then it’s back into the machine for another round of scans.