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Full spine MRI scan ??????

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Chronic Pain

At last, I am going to have my full spine MRI scan on Monday.

Now I am wondering what to expect.
Please share your experiences.

How long did it take?

Am I likely to be able to ask to take a break between levels if I need to move?
(My first MRI the operator did not have a good manner and when I asked what I should do itf I needed to move, told me very firmly that I must not move at all or she would have to start again. The lady who settled me into the tunnel was much nicer and told me not to worry and press the button if I needed to :-))

I am going to be taking a music CD but have been told that I probably won't be able to hear the music. I have found that in the past, but the last scan I had done on a lovely new machine, I could hear the music and the tunnel was larger. This time I am in a mobile unit again, and I know from experience that this is very small.

Looking forward to hearing how you coped and found this. /:)



  • Howdy Jelly,

    About a year ago I had the full spine done. They did mine in sections - lumbar, thoracic and then cervical. I was asked twice if I needed to move around or hit the ladies room. I am going to guess yours should be similar.

    Lets see, time wise...all in all about an hour and forty minutes is memory serves. I just needed to wiggle around and stretch between sections, so it went a wee faster. I hope that helps - oh, and my neck was last since it was needed with and without contrast.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I can't believe I am so pleased to finally being getting the whole thing scanned!

    I have felt that the thoracic level should be viewed completely for nearly 18 months. The lower part of thoracic was viewed when my first lumbar scan was done and they said there were three herniations one of which was mildly indenting my cord, over two years ago. Since then my symptoms have been getting worse, so it will be interesting to see what shows up.

    The pain doctor on Tuesday said that he wants to see an up to date scan of my whole spine. My neck has degeneration throughout it, but he is not sure if the symptoms (especially the spasticity) is being caused by my neck or from compression somewhere else.

    If nothing is seen that could be causing all my other neurological problems, he is going to refer me to a neurologist for further tests. He spoke about ruling out MS and said that there were also other very rare conditions that cause some of my symptoms. I wonder if I should be hoping that the problem is coming from my spine rather than a neurological disease!

    I hope that they will do my scan in sections and allow me to move inbetween if I need to. A kind radiographer would be nice!

    Wow, an hour and forty minutes sounds like a long time to lie on my back and not move!!! That is not easy even in my bed with a cervical memory foam pillow. Was that including the with contrast scan? I haven't been told that I will have that, although I have to not eat for 2 hours before in case they have to inject dye.

    Share stories after our respective tests on Monday. :-)
    Good luck with your leg, arm and spine EMG and nerve testing :-)

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Jelly,

    A brain MRI can be a good tool to see if you have lesions for MS, and or too, evoked potential testing as well.

    From what you've described, the full spine MRI will hopefully yield a lot of answers as to what is and has been causing your pain and other symptoms. I'm glad that they are doing the whole shooting match!!

    My MRI time included the contrast portion. I tend to fall asleep in the tube. My brain scan ....fell asleep there! (G)

    I should know Monday reference MS/ALS etc. From what little I got from the tech thus far, and too my neurological exam last week, MS and the other related neuro nasties are pretty much off the list. :) Myelopathy isn't a thrill either, but it beats having the other nasties! (G)

    The Neurologist is going to do the EMG portion, so I should have a brief "low down" on what the findings are after the test is done. Lets hope we both have answers on Monday!!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I think the only answers I will have on Monday are how long the scan lasted and how it was!

    Here in the UK they won't tell you any results. They have to be sent to the ordering doctor (my neurosurgeon) and then you wait for an appointment to see them.

    Luckily, I already have my appointment to see him on the Tuesday 11th October (your surgery day!! :SS )
  • I had my Thoracic and Lumbar done at the same time, it was about an hour total. That was with no breaks. When they did my cervical earlier in the year it was about 35 minutes, stopping in between pictures.

    The cervical MRI tech was much nicer and was talking to me throughout the whole thing.

    The Thoracic and lumbar tech seemed that he just wanted to get it over quickly, and didn't tell me when sets of pics were started.

    Do you have pain meds and muscle relaxers you can take? Make sure you have a driver if you do. I had my usual vicodin es and I also had valium. It made it easier because it is very hard for me to lay on my back. Maybe the doc can prescribe something for you. Also it helps to bring a sleeping mask. As long as it does not have any metal clips or anything metal on it. It will help so that you don't even know you are in a little tube.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg

  • I don't have muscle relaxers but I can take pain meds to keep me more comfortable.

    In the past, I have just closed my eyes during the scan. It hasn't been so long before though. I may well take an eye mask with me although I would have to put it on before going into the tunnel. I don't think there will be room to move my arms to put it on.

    How are you doing after your ACDF?

  • Good luck to both you Jelly and Brenda!

    Hope you both find out good things afterwards.

    Donnabe..... I too have to take valium to relax. I am claustrophobic for sure. Actually, at my last MRI for my crevical and on my tummy..... I had a hard time laying on that part of my body just for the short time dictated. They rescheduled and gave me the valium and I had a different tech that was the absolute best at getting me ready.

    It sounds like you will do fine as long as you take your muscle relaxers. Just check with your doc.

    Brenda, this is a big surgery coming up for you, eh?

    Best of everything to you both.

  • Jelly,

    Our techs won't say much of anything either, but I can pick up the report 48 hours after the test, and the day of the test I bring the study home on a CD.

    I got my brain scan report, and it is fantastic!!! So looks like Myelopathy wins, and no MS or ALS - whooohoooo!!! :) I compared my chest x-ray to my one just over 2 years ago, and wow, almost 6 weeks without ciggies and boy-o-boy what a difference! Each day I find me thinking about them less and less. I can walk by smokers outside, and don't even bat an eyelash! (G)

    As for the 11th, I have a feeling I will be too out of it to update that night, but most likely will be able to on the 12th. My hubby is going to bring my laptop, but if I am still in zonk mode, he will keep it with him. I know he's worried this go around as he is taking the day off of work, and is going to stay at the hospital until I am out of surgery, and sleep over that night. :)

    The other surgeries I told him to go to work (all under 2 hours), this one, he's not budging. Love that guy.

    So over there, there is no way to get a copy of your report without seeing the referring doctor? Wow, bummer.... I am very glad that you don't have to wait long to find out where you stand. I will keep my fingers crossed for ya woman!!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • As my surgeon told my husband, "Don't get me wrong, this is a huge surgery." So I guess so! (G) Jelly and I have spiney appointments or tests on the same days. Too funny! (G)

    I've never had an MRI on my belly. I fall asleep as is in the tube, I can just imagine if they managed to get me on my belly.. Hehehe... not with my neck! Nope! 8>

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hi my friend!

    Before my fusion, I had "the works"! Brain, cervical, thoracic and lumbar MRI's. 2 sections were also with contast, so it totaled 6 scans.

    Initially I wanted some sedation as it was so involved and I had it scheduled in 2 parts.

    But I got there early, 7:30 on a cold, rainy winter morning. Luckily there wasn't anyone else scheduled right after me. I ended up having it all done one after another without sedation.

    If you have contrast they will bring you out of the tube to inject the dye. They also should give you a button to push if needed so they can stop and bring you out. Insist on that! :)

    They should put support under your knees. If you are having your brain scanned they will put your head in a type of "cage" that is a little spooky... but harmless. :)

    Having gone thru MS testing 4 different times, it is very rare that it is initially presents or is suspected after childbearing years......it typically first rears its ugly head during the child birthing years. And, if you have it, you would expect that you'd have had symptoms after your fusion as it is pysical and emotional stress that cause the symptoms to manifest usually. I hope this is comforting. I know how scarey the thought of these diseases can be! I really do! Gentle, cyber hug!!

    I would definitely bring your CD with music. It can't hurt and could really help. I always try to go to my "happy place" during these tests. For me, that is the beach. I try to visualize the waves and the peacefulness.

    Oh, Jelly! It makes me so sad that we are still having issues! I am still home following my surgery.
    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. If you feel up to it, Facebook me and we can chat before and or after your scans.

    I would definitely take your pain meds before your scan. I'd bring some along to take after too in case you need it. Ice following might be benefitial also!

    Maybe plan to have leftovers or take home dinner so you can just rest and ice!

    I miss you my dear! Wishing you the very best!!
  • Add additional time on to this if they are doing a complete spine mri as they will do the sacrum. Had one done a year ago July and it was over two hours, due the pain I had a very hard issue getting through it and laying flat, even with pain meds and valium on board. If you need to take breaks they should give you a button to push. Ask them to tell you on each series run, so you are sure to be still during them. If you need a break to get up and move they can pull you out and let you get up and move about.
  • I am supposed to be going back to work in the afternoon (my appointment is at 10.10am). Hopefully I will be ok to do that! I had thought that my appointment would last about an hour, but now I am not sure. Over 2 hours tamtam!! Was that including with contrast scans?

    I hope that I don't start twitching and spasming while the scan is being done! That won't help to get clear images.

    Jayhawk >:D<
    You made me laugh at the idea of a happy and peaceful place!! With all that noise going on how can you find a peaceful place? :))(

    I have a lovely Christian music CD that I put together myself which has music that is special and meaningful to me. I used it both before my surgery and after while recovering. I will take that and try to hear it!
    All prayers much appreciated xxx

    I really miss our chats :-( I'll look out for you my friend. :B (me looking out for you! - shame about the teeth!)

    >:D< >:D< >:D<
    Gentle hugs to you all, and hoping that each of you will feel better today than yesterday :)

  • Jelly,

    Just a tip for you that seems to help me a little. I am the worst at lying still on a fairly good day. Before I get ready to go in the tube...... I take off my shoes,(actually kicked them off one session, wear loose clothing, and make sure my hair is pulled back but no pony tail. Be as comfortable as you can make yourself.

    Heh Brenda........

    Sorry, I stated that wrong. It was not an MRI on my belly but an epidural in my neck this past August. I had always had the epi's done by an anesthesiologist before with fluoroscopy. This past August my radiologist used MRI to guide the needle instead. Maybe just his preference. He said it was more accurate and safer that way. Othertimes I was in the open room just on the gurney.I take valium cause I am claustrophobic for an MRI. I had to come back a second time cuz I couldn't lie that way. I took valium and barely could stand the pain that got through it that time. It was my arms in that awkward position.


  • I am trying to remember if I can have pillows.
    If I can that may help to make me more comfortable.
    I would chose to have one under my head, one in the small of my back and one under my knees.

    Do you think they will let me?

  • I had thought that it is very unlikely that I have MS. I think I am too old!! At least there is something good about getting older!! :))(

    Although I don't want to find out that I have some incurable neurological disease, somehow I feel that at last they are listening to me and going to investigate what is causing all my symptoms. Just knowing that if the full spine MRI doesn't give all the answers, they are not going to give up, but will refer me to a neurologist to find out what is going on.

  • Hi Jelly,

    I have had all the areas MRI'd but have had them done singulary and it has been some time except for my cervical these past few months.

    It sounds like they will be done in segments as even are the individual ones I had done. They do talk and give you breaks to breathe and catch your momentum if need be. I have always just told them to do it and get it done. I am rather impatient about things. You just need to listen when they tell you not to move. It is usually for only a short period of time and then you can relax a little. It is painless unless you are a little hraboured by claustrophobia but I get through them. I just like to close my eyes and think of something nice.

    I was given knee cushions to help make me more comfortable for my cervical MRI. I also believe I was given a very flat pillow. It will of course depend on your areas to be observed and your tech and radiologist. They will do anything to help you remain still. You will do fine!
    Just get er done and you'll get some answers.

  • Hehehe... Not a problem. I've never had one on my belly, so I guess I got spooled a little there - maybe a little jealous! (G) As for ESI's and the like, I just tell em to stick me and get it over with... Works best for me. :) Thanks for clarifying...

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I just want to get it done now and find out what they see. I have been waiting a long time to get my thoracic properly checked out - since August last year.

    Not long to go now - only about 14 hours!!

  • I was wondering if anyone knows how they decide whether to do the scan with contrast or not.
    Does the ordering doctor ask for it?
    Or does the radiologist decide depending on how clear the pictures are?

  • Howdy Jellyhall... :)

    The contrast is ordered by the prescribing physician. It helps to see inflammation and fluids better. It also helps to see the issues a little better if you have artifacts (hardware).

    They normally do the main MRI, then keeping you in the same position, add the contrast (injection), and do about 10 minutes more each section for the T2 pictures...

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Good luck Jelly!

    Get er done and over with. Hope you will be on the road to better soon.

  • Thinking of you and keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

    Not much longer my dear friend and then you will be on the road to answers!

    Please let us know how it goes!

    Gentle cyber hugs! Shari

  • At last I have had my full spine MRI.
    I was in the 'tunnel' for just under an hour.
    No contrast, despite having hardware from my lumbar fusion.

    The two men who were doing the scans were lovely; so kind and compassionate.

    They said that they wanted to put markers on my spine. Has anyone else had this? I think it is just something that they do for a full spine MRI. I wonder if it is in case I move and they will be able to tell if they have finished a section. (???)
    As for the markers, they put sticky tape on my spine at the neck/thoracic junction and at the thoracic/lumbar junction. Afterwards they took them off and I asked what they were, as I had felt a lump on the tape. They were capsules of either Vitamin E or Cod Liver Oil. (They couldn't remember which.) Obviously they will show up on the scan, but couldn't cause any problems.
    I am very interested to know if anyone else has had this.

    I actually felt very calm during the scan, and I could hear my music most of the time. I found it very helpful to focus on that. I kept my eyes closed.

    I did go back to work afterwards, and have felt ok. I even went out to a meeting this evening!

    After the scan I felt really elated. I think partly that at last they have checked my whole spine, and partly that it was all over. As I drove home, the sun was shining and the countryside looked beautiful.

    Now I am looking forward to having my consultation with the neurosurgeon and pain consultant next week to find out what the scan shows, and how it compares with the cervical scan that I had a year ago.

    Thanks for thinking of me everyone (and your prayers :-) )
  • YaY!! I am so happy for you!! congrat's!

    See, it is possible to find your happy place even inside an MRI tube! :)

    I am so thankful that you had your music CD with you and that the techs were so kind and thoughtful to you!

    I love the fact that you found beauty in your day!

    Please let us know how it goes with neuro and PM!

    So happy for you!!
  • Jelly,

    Glad to see you are done, and it was even shorter than most of us had thanks to no contrast. :)

    I've not had markers used. I knew when they moved to the next spinal section because they would tell me - I guess that is where they broke up the MRI studies? Did you get the CD after your imaging was done?

    My EMG was the most anti-climatic I've ever had! He only tested my right arm and leg! And I've had like 5 of these, and this was the shortest EMG I've ever had - like half the sticks too. The Neurologists reason for why the short EMG: "Your neck isn't stable, and due to bone causing nerve issues, I won't see much of it here..." Ummm...never heard that before, but I guess if my neck is stable laying down, that makes sense? The main reason for me being there anyways was to rule out MS/ALS - which is OFF the table finally! :)

    Now Jelly, we need to see you get answers for your imaging today, *and* a game plan!!! Fingers crossed ...your appointment for this MRI info is next Tuesday right? I'll have to see after my long "nap" on that day how it went for ya. (G)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I did ask for a copy of the scan, but already knew really that they would say not now.

    I have to wait until the consultant has seen it and then phone the Data Protection Department at the Hospital (didn't know they had one!) and ask them if I can have it. I expect I will have to pay for it, but I hope that they will include the MRI scan done in October last year too so they can be compared.

    They did tell me as they finished one area and moved on the the next. They even told me when they were on the last bit of an area and how many minutes until they had finished it. They kept checking I was ok.

    They did my neck, then thoracic and then lumbar. After the thoracic they asked if I wanted time to take a break, and I wanted to wriggle my fingers and toes as my arms, especially had gone very numb. (They had told me not to even move my hands or arms during the scan as it would affect my neck scan.)

    Yup, my appointment to hear about the scan is next Tuesday afternoon. I have a feeling that you will be in surgery at the same time (with the time difference). I'll let you know how I get on, and make sure that you let us know how YOU get on! :SS

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • jellyhall said:

    Yup, my appointment to hear about the scan is next Tuesday afternoon. I have a feeling that you will be in surgery at the same time (with the time difference). I'll let you know how I get on, and make sure that you let us know how YOU get on! :SS
    >:D< >:D< >:D<
    Bummer no CD! I'm spoiled, I get all my imaging before I leave, and 2 days later the report(s).

    Tuesday isn't that far away, so you won't have to nibble your nails down this time!! (G) Yeah, still don't have a show time, but I should have that in a day or two when the hospital calls to finish my pre-registry. I might have to head up there, but except for the note from my GP (get that Thursday), all my pre ops are done. :)

    I'll let ya know how it goes!! :) Yes Ma'am!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hi Jelly,

    I'm glad to hear that this is a done deal for you. Also, that you were able to get back to work.

    They will give you your CD I'm sure. I had to sign for it but had it then right away. They sent it to me though cuz I am many miles away to pick it up.

    Keep us informed!

  • So glad things went well when you had your complete MRI. I didn't know you could even hear music during it. I don't think you have to pay for an MRI CD but maybe things are different there. I hope the Dr. has some answers for you next week.
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Oops that was for my cervical MRI. Still waiting to have my full MRI. I see the doctor tomorrow again. They did ask however, if I wanted that CD to take elsewhere. There was no charge. I had only to sign a release.
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