10 Dumb Questions About an MRI for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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MRI machine

You have rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in your hand?

I went for an MRI on my hand the other day – for the third time. For the two previous weeks, I showed up to discover that the MR (Magnetic Resonance) machine had broken. Of course, the third time’s a charm. I did not say charming, though.

The MRI / radiology technicians are unfamiliar with Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms. They say the strangest things – and give the most disparaging looks. If I were not laughing, I might have cried.

A hand MRI can’t be any big deal for someone living with severe RA symptoms, right?

It took about half an hour of wrangling to get my hand exactly the way they wanted it inside the MRI machine. I was completely docile, but it was painful to lay with my right shoulder hanging off the metal edge of the table so that they could center my left hand inside the machine. And I loved having my left arm way above my head with my arm in the shape of a question mark, strapped down with Velcro. Why don’t I do this more often?

Here are a few questions about the MRI.

Some I asked aloud. Some I wished I had. Some the MRI techs asked me.

  1. That’s a machine gun right? Can I shoot back?
  2. If there are foam cushions packed around me, why am I so uncomfortable?
  3. Are you sure that this is the loudest camera you can find?
  4. Why does my daughter have to remove her tiny plastic earrings with metal hooks, but can sit right next to me with jeans that have a zipper and rivets all over them?  
  5. Why would you need an MRI for RA?
  6. So, you have no pain or anything in your hand, right?
  7. No, why would you think I’m stiff at all after being frozen in place for one hour? Gimme another hour and I’ll get up.
  8. If I let you suck that mint, promise you won’t choke so I have to do CPR on you?
  9. Does MRI stand for Most Radioactive Interrogator? Are they trying to get the truth out of my hand?
  10. Since it’s so cold in here that last year my shivering made the MRI results difficult to read, can I please get a blanket for Meaningless Result Insurance?

Seriously, as we’ve discussed here on the blog, there is a need for better tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis – not just for diagnosis, but to measure disease progression. MRI’s have some value, as do x-rays, and there is some promise in the specialized use of ultrasound which we’ll discuss in an upcoming post. However, patients who tell me they have a desire to see the disease activity with their own eyes will usually be disappointed even if they do.

Note: A more serious discussion of image tests for RA is the 3 part series on Ultrasounds for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Recommended reading:

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 7:21 am and is filed under Living with RA / Managing RA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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